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"Without equal in this or any other century." Pulpit Digest 
"Certainly one cannot call this less than a /great' 
tian Century 



(For the complete plan of The Interpreter's Bible see the back of the jacket) 


VOLUME I contains the complete commentary on Genesis and Exodus 
-and the twenty-two General Articles on the Bible and the Old Testa- 

Here some of the ablest scholars and preachers of our time con- 
tribute their knowledge of the findings of recent research and their 
power ot interpretation to explore the wealth of preaching and teach- 
ing opportunities in the beginning books of the Bible. 
Cuthbert A. Simpson (Introduction and Exegesis of Genesis) is Regius 
Professor of Hebre A and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, England. He 
is authoi of Revelation and Response in the Old Testament and Early 
Traditio s of L ( >. ael. 

Walter I issell Bowie ^Exposition of Genesis) is sometime Professor of 
Homileti' m the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia. 
He is the ' Tsuch widely read books as The Story of the Bible, 
Lift Up ''- *arts, Remembering Christ, The Story of the Church t 
and Chn mth Me. 

J. Coert ) arsdam (Introduction and Exegesis of Exodus) is Professor 
of Old T ament Theology, The Federated Theological Faculty of the 
Universit) of Chicago. He is author of Revelation in Jewish Wisdom 

J. Edgar Park (Exposition of Exodus) was, until his death in 1956, Pres- 
ident Emeritus, Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts. He was the 
author of The Miracle of Preaching. 

The 22 General Articles on the Bible and the Old Testament supply 
the background needed for fullest understanding of the Scriptures. 
Taken together they would make a sizable volume an unsurpassed 
general introduction to the Bible as a whole and to the Old Testament 
with concise yet thorough coverage of their many fields, as follows: 


The Bible: Its Significance and Authority Herbert H. Farmer, Pro- 
fessor of Divinity, University of Cambridge 

The Formation and Transmission of the Old Testament 

The Canon of the Old Testament Arthur Jeffery, Adjunct Pro- 
fessor of Semitic Languages, Union Theological Seminary 

Text and Ancient Versions of the Old Testament -Arthur Jeffery 
The Formation and Transmission of the New Testament 

The Canon of the New Testament Edgar J. Goodspeed, Professor 
Emeritus of Biblical and Patristic Greek, University of Chicago 

(Continued on back flap) 



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Commentary Editor 


Associate Editor of Exposition Associate Editor of Exposition 


Associate Editor of Associate Editor of 

New Testament Introduction Old Testament Introduction 

and Exegesis and Exegesis 


Editor , Abingdon Press 










Copyright 1952 by Pierce and Smith in the United States 
of America. Copyright secured in all countries of the 
International Copyright Union. Published simultaneously 
in the United States, the Dominion of Canada, and 
Great Britain. All lights reserved. No part of the text 
may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever with- 
out written permission of the publishers, except brief 
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 
For information address Abmgdon Press 

Nashville, Tennessee 
Copyright renewal 1980 by Abingdon 

ISBN 0-681-19201-2 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 51-12276 

The text of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible 
(RSV) and quotations therefrom are copyright 1946, 1952 
by Division of Christian Education of the National Coun- 
cil of the Churches of Christ in the United States of 
America. Scripture quotations designated "ASV" are 
from the American Standard Version of the Revised 
Bible, copyright renewed 1929 by the International Coun- 
cil of Religious Education. Those designated "Moffatt" 
are from The Bible, A New Translation, by James Mof- 
fatt, copyright in the United States, 1935, by Harper & 
Brothers, New York; copyright in countries of the 
International Copyright Union by Hodder & Stoughton, 
Ltd,, London. Those designated "Amer. Trans." or 
"Goodspeed" are from The Complete Bible, An Ameri- 
can Translation, by J. M. Powis Smith and Edgar J. 
Goodspeed, copyright 1939 by the University of Chicago. 

Thirty-ninth Printing 1984 




Professor Emeritus of New Testament 
Interpretation, Berkeley Baptist Divinity 


Professor of Divinity, University of Edin- 

Bishop of Southwell 


Minister, Cliff Temple Baptist Church, 



New Testament, New Brunswick 
Theological Seminary 


Superintendent Minister, Wesley Church, 


Chancellor, Vanderbilt University 


Professor of Biblical Theology, The 
Divinity School, Yale University 


Professor of Philosophy, Wabash College 


Dean, Drew Theological Seminary 


Bishop of Washington, D.C. 


Professor of Divinity, University of 


Dean Emeritus, General Theological 


President, Southern Baptist Theological 



Professor of Biblical Theology, Union 
Theological Seminary, New York 


Professor of Applied Theology, Pacific 
School of Religion 


President, Lutheran Theological Semi- 
nary, Philadelphia 


Sometime Dean, Drew Theological Semi- 


President, Southern Methodist University 


Professor of Homiletics, The Divinity 
School, Yale University 


Associate Editor, The United Presbyterian 


Editor Emeritus, The Christian Century 


Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Lan- 
guages, Union Theological Seminary, 
New York 


Minister, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 
Raleigh, North Carolina 


President Emeritus and Professor of New 
Testament and Systematic Theology, 
Eden Theologi :al Seminary 




Professor of New Testament, Hartford 
Theological Seminary 


President Emeritus and Professor Emeri- 
tus of Church History, Theological Semi- 
nary of the Evangelical and Reformed 


Professor of Old Testament Language and 
Literature, Faculty of Divinity, McGill 


Professor of Biblical Theology, Emory 


President and Professor of Preaching, Gar- 
rett Biblical Institute 

Dean of the Divinity School, Chairman of 
the Board of Preachers, Harvard Univer- 


Bishop of the Evangelical United Brethren 


Professor of Christian Education, Union 
Theological Seminary, Bichmond 


Minister, The Church for the Fellowship 
of All Peoples, San Francisco 


Hon. Chaplain to His Majesty's Forces, 
Minister, The City Temple, London 


Professor of New Testament Interpreta- 
tion, Chicago Theological Seminary and 
Federated Theological Faculty of the 
University of Chicago 




Professor of Semitic Languages, Johns 
Hopkins University 
General Article 

The Old Testament World 


Lecturer in Divinity, University of 
Exposition EzeMel 


Professor of Old Testament Interpreta- 
tion, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School 
Introduction and Exegesis Esther 


Professor Emeritus of Homiletics, Auburn 
Theological Seminary 
Exposition Ecclesiastes 


Professor Emeritus of New Testament 
Interpretation, Berkeley Baptist Divinity 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I and II Thessalonians 


Minister, Hampstead Garden Suburb Free 
Church, London 
Exposition Psalms 90-150 


Professor of New Testament Interpreta- 
tion, Candler School of Theology, 
Emory University 

Introduction and Exegesis II Peter 

Introduction and Exegesis Jude 


Associate Professor of Biblical Literature 
and Theology, Princeton Theological 
General Article 

Chronology, Metrology, etc. 


Professor of New Testament Studies, 

Trinity College, Toronto 
Introduction and Exegesis . . Ephesians 
Introduction and Exegesis . . .Cplossians 


Minister, Lutheran Church of the Refor- 
mation, Washington, D.C. 
Exposition Galatians 


Minister, First Methodist Church, 
Evanston, Illinois 
Exposition Micah 


Professor of Homiletics, The Protestant 
Episcopal Theological Seminary in 
General Article 
The Teaching of Jesus: III. The Parables 

Exposition Genesis 

Exposition Luke 1-6 


Associate Professor, Department of Ori- 
ental Languages and Literature, Univer- 
sity of Chicago 

Introduction and Exegesis Ezra 

Introduction and Exegesis . . Nehemiah 


Professor of Hebrew and the Interpreta- 
tion of the Old Testament, Union The- 
ological Seminary, Richmond 
Introduction and Exegesis Joshua 


Minister, Madison Avenue Presbyterian 
Church, New York 
General Article 

The Study of the Bible 

Exposition Matthew 

Exposition .Luke 13-18 

Exposition Philemon 


Minister, Westminster Presbyterian 
Church, Buffalo 
Exposition Numbers 




Professor of Divinity, The Divinity 
School, Harvard University 
General Article , The New Testament 
and Early Christian Literature 


Professor of New Testament Literature 
and Interpretation, McGill University 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I and II Samuel 


Minister Emeritus, First Church in Cam- 
bridge, Congregational, Cambridge, Mas- 
Exposition II Kings 


Minister, Second Presbyterian Church, St. 
Exposition I and II Thessalonians 


Professor of Preaching and Preacher to 
the University, The Divinity School, Duke 

Exposition Ruth 

Exposition Nahum 

Exposition Zechariah 9-14 


President Emeritus, Union Theological 
Seminary, New York 
Exposition Isaiah 40-66 


President, University of Chicago 

General Article The Text and 

Ancient Versions of the 
New Testament 

Professor of Philosophy, Wabash College 
Exposition Hebrews 


Minister, Erskine and American United 
Church, Montreal 
Exposition Romans 


Dean, Drew Theological Seminary 
General Article .... The Teaching 
of Jesus: I. The Proclamation 
of the Kingdom 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I Corinthians 


Professor of the Literature and Interpreta- 
tion of the Old Testament, Berkeley 
Divinity School, New Haven 
Introduction and Exegesis 

Zechariah 9-14 
Introduction and Exegesis Malachi 


Professor Emeritus of Literature and In- 
terpretation of the New Testament, Gen- 
eral Theological Seminary 
Introduction and Exegesis James 


Minister, First Presbyterian Church, 
Exposition Judges 


Principal and Professor of Hebrew and 
Old Testament Theology and Literature, 
Westminster College, Cambridge 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I and II Chronicles 
Exposition I and II Chronicles 


Professor of New Testament Literature 
and Exegesis, Crozer Theological Semi- 
General Article 

New Testament Times: II. Palestine 


Professor of Divinity, University of 

General Article The Bible: 

Its Significance and Authority 


Rector, Trinity Church, Boston 
Exposition Acts 


Professor of New Testament Literature 
and History, McCormick Theological 
Introduction and Exegesis 

II Corinthians 


Dean Emeritus, General Theological 

General Article 

The Prophetic Literature 

Introduction and Exegesis Amos 



Associate Professor of Old Testament, 
Princeton Theological Seminary 
Introduction and Exegesis . . .Proverbs 


Professor of New Testament Greek, 
Perkins School of Theology, Southern 
Methodist University 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I and II Timothy and Titus 


Dean Emeritus of the University Chapel, 
Professor of Preaching, University of 

Exposition Ezra 

Exposition Nehemiah 


Professor of New Testament Literature 
and Criticism, Queen's Theological 
Introduction and Exegesis Luke 


Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Patristic 
Greek, University of Chicago 
General Article 

The Canon of the New Testament 


Emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics and 

Practical Training, University of Glasgow 

Exposition John 


Professor of fiiblical Theology, Union 
Theological Seminary, New York 
Introduction and Exegesis Mark 


Professor of New Testament Language 
and Interpretation, School of Theology, 
University of the South 
General Article . . The History of the 
Interpretation of the Bible: 
L Ancient Period 


Professor Emeritus of the Literature and 
Interpretation of the New Testament, 
Episcopal Theological School 
General Article . .The History of the 
Early Church: II. The Life of Paul 


Professor of Christian Education, Prince- 
ton Theological Seminary 

Exposition I and II Peter 

Exposition Jude 


Minister, First Methodist Church, Ger- 
mantown, Philadelphia 
Exposition I, II, and III John 


Professor of Christian Ethics, Drew The- 
ological Seminary 
Exposition Jeremiah 


Sometime Dean, Drew Theological Semi- 
Exposition Revelation 


Principal, Handsworth College, 
Introduction and Exegesis 



Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criti- 
cism, King's College, Aberdeen University 
Introduction and Exegesis I Peter 


Professor of Old Testament, School of 
Religion, Vanderbilt University 
Introduction and Exegesis . , . Jeremiah 


Professor of Old Testament Language 
and Literature, Perkins School of The- 
ology, Southern Methodist University 
General Article 

The Literature of the Old Testament 
General Article 

The Wisdom Literature 


Professor of Semitic Languages, Columbia 
General Article 

The Canon of the Old Testament 

General Article The Text and 

Ancient Versions of the 

Old Testament 

Introduction and Exegesis Daniel 




Professor of Literature and Interpretation 
of the New Testament, Episcopal Theo- 
logical School 
Introduction and Exegesis . . . Matthew 


Bishop, The Methodist Church, Portland 
Exposition Daniel 


Pastor Emeritus, The Shadyside Presby- 
terian Church, Pittsburgh 
Exposition Song of Songs 


Principal, The United Theological Col- 
lege, Montreal 
Exposition Isaiah 1-39 


Professor of New Testament, Union 
Theological Seminary, New York 

Exposition Luke 7-12 

Introduction and Exegesis . . Romans 
Introduction and Exegesis . . .Philemon 


The Board of Christian Education, Pres- 
byterian Church in the U.S.A. 

Exposition Joel 

Exposition Obadiah 


Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri 
Exposition Esther 


Minister, Broad Street Presbyterian 
Church, Columbus, Ohio 
Exposition II Samuel 


Chaplain of Yale University 
Exposition Amos 


Professor of Homiletics, The Divinity 
School, Yale University 
Exposition Mark 


Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criti- 
cism, University of Glasgow 
Introduction and Exegesis Acts 


Minister, Knox United Church, Calgary, 
Exposition Colossians 


Professor of Christian Theology, The 
University, Nottingham 
Introduction and Exegesis . . Numbers 


Professor of Old Testament Language and 
Literature, University of Glasgow 
Introduction and Exegesis Hosea 


Professor of Old Testament Language 
and Literature, Graduate School of The- 
ology, Oberlin College 
Introduction and Exegesis Ezekiel 


Professor of Religion, University of 

General Article New Testament 

Times: I The Greco-Roman World 


Professor of Church History, Union 
Theological Seminary, New York 
General Article . The History of the 
Interpretation of the Bible: II. Medieval 
and Reformation Period 


Professor of Oriental Languages, Univer- 
sity College, University of Toronto 
Introduction and Exegesis 

Song of Songs 
Introduction and Exegesis 



Pastor Emeritus, Brick Presbyterian 
Church, New York 
Exposition Lamentations 


Associate Professor of New Testament, 
Princeton Theological Seminary 
General Article 

The Language of the New Testament 


Principal and Professor of Dogmatic The- 
ology, Mansfield College, Oxford 
Introduction and Exegesis . . . Leviticus 
Exposition Leviticus 




Professor of New Testament, Andover 
Newton Theological School 
General Article The History of the 
Early Church: III. Paul the Apostle 


Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Lan- 
guages, Union Theological Seminary, 
New York 
General Article 

The History of the Religion of Israel 
Introduction and Exegesis 

Isaiah 40-66 


Professor of Old Testament, Lutheran 
Theological Seminary, Gettysburg 
Introduction and Exegesis Judges 


Minister, Central Presbyterian Church, 

Montclair, New Jersey 

Exposition I and II Timothy 

Exposition Titus 


President Emeritus, Wheaton College, 
Norton, Massachusetts 
Exposition Exodus 


Professor of New Testament, General 
Theological Seminary 
Exposition Deuteronomy 


Professor of New Testament Language 
and Literature, Bangor Theological Semi- 
General Article 

The Growth of the Gospels 


Lecturer on Semitic Languages and Cu- 
rator of Semitic Museum, Harvard Uni- 
versity; Professor, Boston University 
School of Theology 

General Article The Literature 

and Religion of the Apocrypha 

General Article The Literature 

and Religion of the Pseudepigrapha 


Minister, First Baptist Church, Cleveland 
Exposition Hosea 


Minister, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 
Raleigh, North Carolina 
Exposition Psalms 42-89 


Minister, Tourist Church, Daytona Beach, 
Exposition James 


Professor of New Testament, Hartford 
Theological Seminary 
Introduction and Exegesis . . . Hebrews 


Professor of Old Testament Language, 
Literature and Theology, New College, 
University of Edinburgh 
Introduction and Exegesis . Ecclesiastes 


Minister, Formerly of St. Andrew's Pres- 
byterian Church, Eastbourne, Sussex 
Exposition II Corinthians 


Professor of New Testament Literature 
and Interpretation, Iliff School of The- 
Introduction and Exegesis . . Revelation 


Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages, 
University College, Cardiff 
General Article . .The History of Israel 


Associate Professor of Old Testament 
Theology, The Federated Theological 
Faculty of the University of Chicago 
Introduction and Exegesis Exodus 

Bishop of Missouri 



Professor of Homiletics, Union Theologi- 
cal Seminary, New York 

Exposition Job 

Exposition Luke 19-24 


Minister, Hyde Park Baptist Church, 
Exposition Proverbs 




Master, Calhoun College, Yale University 
Exposition I Samuel 


Minister, Old St. Andrew's Church, 
Exposition Psalms 1-41 


Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology, 
Union Theological Seminary, New York 

General Article . . The History of the 
Early Church: I The Beginnings 

Introduction and Exegesis . Philippians 


Professor of Old Testament Language and 
Literature, Faculty of Divinity, McGill 
Introduction and Exegesis Isaiah 1-39 


Professor of Church History, Episcopal 
Theological School 

General Article The History 

of the Early Church: IV. The 
Post- Apostolic Age 


Bishop Suffragan of California 
Exposition Deuteronomy 


Minister, Richmond Hill Congregational 
Church, Bournemouth 
Exposition I Corinthians 


Sub-dean and Professor of Old Testament 
Literature and Interpretation, General 
Theological Seminary 
General Article 

The Growth of the Hexateuch 
Introduction and Exegesis Genesis 

JOSEPH R. Sizoo 

President, New Brunswick Theological 
Exposition Joshua 


Minister, Rosedale Presbyterian Church, 
Introduction and Exegesis Jonah 


Professor of Biblical History, Wellesley 
Introduction and Exegesis Ruth 


Tutor in Old Testament Languages and 
Literature, Wesley College, Leeds 
General Article 

The Language of the Old Testament 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I and II Kings 


Minister, Christ Church, New York 
Exposition I Kings 


Minister, Central Presbyterian Church, 
New York 
Exposition Zechariah 1-8 


Dean of the Divinity School, Chairman 
of the Board of Preachers, Harvard Uni- 

Exposition Haggai 

Exposition Malachi 


Professor of New Testament Language, 
Literature and Theology, Lutheran The- 
ological Seminary, Gettysburg 
Introduction and Exegesis Galatians 


Professor Emeritus of New Testament 
Language and Literature, Westminster 
College, Cambridge 
General Article 

The Gospel in the New Testament 


Dean and Professor of Literature and In- 
terpretation of the Old Testament, Epis- 
copal Theological School 

Introduction and Exegesis Nahum 

Introduction and Exegesis . .Habakkuk 
Introduction and Exegesis . .Zephaniah 


Principal and Tutor in New Testament 
Language and Literature, Wesley College* 
General Article 

The Life and Ministry of Jesus 




Principal and Professor, Department of 
Semitics, University College, University 
of Toronto 
Introduction and Exegesis Psalms 


Associate Professor of Old Testament, 

Union Theological Seminary, New York 

General Article The History of the 

Interpretation of the Bible: 

III. Modern Period 

Introduction and Exegesis Job 


Regius Professor of Hebrew, University 
of Cambridge 

Introduction and Exegesis Haggai 

Introduction and Exegesis 

Zechariah 1-8 


Professor of Old Testament Language and 
Exegesis, Evangelical Theological Semi- 
nary, Cairo, Egypt 

Introduction and Exegesis Joel 

Introduction and Exegesis Obadiah 


Minister, The Church for the Fellowship 

of All Peoples, San Francisco 

Exposition Habakkuk 

Exposition Zephaniah 


Canon of Washington Cathedral and 
Warden of the College of Preachers, 
Washington, D.C. 
Exposition Ephesians 


Dean Emeritus of the University Chapel, 
Princeton University 
Exposition Philippians 


Associate Professor of New Testament 
Language and Literature, The Divinity 
School and Federated Theological Faculty 
of the University of Chicago 
General Article The English Bible 


Professor of New Testament Interpreta- 
tion, Chicago Theological Seminary and 
Federated Theological Faculty of the 
University of Chicago 

General Article The Teaching of 

Jesus: II. The Sermon on the Mount 
Introduction and Exegesis 

I, II, and III John 


Professor of Biblical Literature, Western 
Reserve University 
Introduction and Exegesis Micah 


Professor of Old Testament History and 
Theology, McCormick Theological Semi- 

General Article The Faith of Israel 

Introduction and Exegesis 



The Interpreter's Bible is a guidebook 
to the city of the Bible. To some readers the 
Bible is a foreign city: they can find in this 
commentary, if it is properly used, a veri- 
table "open-sesame." To other readers the 
Bible is a familiar place: even they may 
find by means of these volumes treasures 
which they never dreamed were just around 
the corner. The Bible has towers and streets 
and rivers, plazas and libraries and shrines, 
incalculably more historic and lifegiving 
than any London or New York. It amply 
justifies a multivolume work, involving 
twelve years of labor by over one hundred 
exegetes and expositors, with a commensu- 
rate outlay of money. Justifies? Nay, re- 
quires it in every century; for the Bible 
offers that enrichment and fellowship which 
other cities promise but fail to provide. It 
is more than a "city of refuge": it is the 
home of the "beloved community" of God 
in Christ. 

Here then is a commentary guidebook 
to the city of the Bible. How is the guide- 
book planned? How should it be used? The 
editors "have a concern," as the Quakers 
might say, that The Interpreter's Bible 
shall be rightfully employed, and that none 
of its values shall be missed. The general 
reader, the teacher, and the preacher of the 
Bible, if they understand the scheme and 
purpose of these volumes, can all here find 
unusual resource. 

The Prefaces 

Is it too much to ask that the Prefaces be 
read? In many a book the preface is more 
than the front door: it is both the clue to 
the book's intention and the story of the 
author's pilgrimage. The Prefaces to these 
volumes, though they bear two individual 
names, are in large degree the statement of 
editors and publishers. There the reader 
is told that this work travels by a dual 
directional beam, honest scholarship 
within the Protestant evangelical faith. 
Every book is written in some faith. The 

cult of "objectivity" would be empty even 
if it were possible, for only faith gives con- 
tent to any study; so our editors and con- 
tributors eagerly confess, as men under a 
saving conviction, that God in Christ "for us 
men, and for our salvation, came down . . . 
and was made man." That faith itself de- 
mands honesty of scholarship, for the Spirit 
of Christ guides men's minds without coerc- 
ing them, and requires that we "speak 
every man truth with his neighbor." The 
Bible is not a series of phonograph records 
traced on helpless human wax by a com- 
pulsive needle, but genuinely an inspiration 
from which new light breaks age on age 
under the leading of that selfsame Spirit. 
The Prefaces tell further how the whole 
work was planned, how writers were chosen, 
why liberty of interpretation was given 
them under what gentle constraints, and 
the rules that were followed in the arduous 
task of editing. So we plead, for the reader's 
own understanding, that the Prefaces be 

The Working Page 

A sequential reading of the whole work 
is probably too exacting a request. Many a 
reader will be a hard-pressed teacher or 
preacher who will turn in the Commentary 
to the page that bears on his immediate 
task. So we now write to him. The working 
page is in three parts. The second is pend- 
ant on the first, and the third on the other 
two; and the proper method of study is 
therefore by a downward movement of the 

At the top of the page, in clear type, the 
King James Version and the Revised Stand- 
ard Version of the passage under considera- 
tion are set side by side. Comparison and 
contrast can thus be made almost at a 
glance. The King James Version is not only 
a devotional classic in its own enduring 
right, which in majestic cadence worships 
God in the beauty of holiness, but is so 
inevitably true in many of its translations 



as almost to have added new power to the 
original word. For this reason, and because 
it is hallowed in memory, it is placed first 
on each working page. The Revised Stand- 
ard Version stands alongside it because, by 
the general consent of scholars, it is the 
most accurate revision of the King James 
Version; and one which, moreover, has been 
intent on preserving the priceless values of 
the Tyndale-King James tradition. As com- 
pared with prior translations, the Revised 
Standard Version has the advantage of re- 
cently discovered manuscripts such as the 
papyri obtained by Chester Beatty, and the 
further advantage of newer knowledge of 
the original languages such as has followed 
from Adolf Deissmann's brilliant deduction 
that the New Testament was written in 
koine (vernacular) Greek. Contributors 
have been left free to use or quote from 
either version. Many have turned to the 
Revised Standard Version because that pro- 
vides the more accurate rendering. Some- 
times a contributor has stressed a difference 
between the two versions; sometimes he has 
proposed a third translation. At such junc- 
tures, to conserve time and space, we have 
not asked him to enter into lengthy expla- 
nations. The two versions themselves, set 
side by side, provide the key. 

Midway in the working page, immedi- 
ately below the scripture passage under 
study, is the Exegesis. Many readers, even 
teachers and preachers, are prone to over- 
look the setting of a phrase and the exact 
meaning of a word. A reader who casts his 
eye on a line of scripture and accepts what 
it "seems to mean" is dealing in astrology or 
pre-Copernican astronomy rather than in 
the present wonder of heavenly truth. 
Truth depends, not alone on accuracy of 
meaning, but on its total setting on what 
a word or phrase meant for its original 
speaker in the original time and occasion. 
Such neglect of meaning has become a 
minor scandal, for thus the Bible has been 
twisted to support arbitrary notions and 
contemporary trends: 

What damned error, but some sober brow 
Will bless it, and approve it with a text? 

The reader will notice that the expositors 
in these volumes, though the editors have 
given them a large liberty, have based their 

interpretations on the Exegesis. In no other 
way can any interpreter "rightly" divide 
"the word of truth." So the editors plead for 
a careful and grateful use of the Exegesis. 
Preachers who thus "search the Scriptures" 
will gain more, and better, sermons than 
they lose. 

Below the Exegesis is the Exposition. The 
nature and strategy of these interpretations 
should be understood, for otherwise their 
resource cannot be tapped. They are not 
ready-made outlines for sermons or ad- 
dresses, or even homilies for general read- 
ing. Such aids, like the schoolboy's "prop," 
could be the defeat of knowledge rather 
than its enhancement; and they could make 
Bible teaching a poor desultory effort or a 
secondhand purchase. The expositions are 
rather "openings": they point a path rather 
than impose a pattern. They are not a 
crutch, but a spur. They hint the relevance 
of the Scriptures for our time and for all 
time, and they invite the student to "take 
the hint." They are not bereft of illustra- 
tion, for one of the values of these volumes 
is that they provide both an index and a 
corpus of illustrative material; but even the 
illustrations are given not as a lift for lazy 
legs, but as a challenge to the reader's quest. 
The exegetes have been chosen for their 
knowledge, honesty, and reverence; the ex- 
positors have been chosen for their readi- 
ness to be true to the Exegesis and for their 
gift of kindling suggestion. So for the 
teacher the Expositions are not an ambu- 
lance but a guide. Yet the average reader 
will find in them, when they are coupled 
with the scripture text, leading in his medi- 

The Introductions 

But though the average owner of these 
volumes may turn first, because of the neces- 
sities of his daily task, to the working page, 
it would be unfortunate both for him and 
for those whom he would teach, if he were 
content to stay within such limits. The 
Introductions to the various Bible books 
are an invaluable library, especially for a 
teacher of the Scriptures. If gathered into 
one volume they would give as comprehen- 
sive knowledge in that field as has ever been 
published in one book. They answer ques- 
tions which, while unanswered, leave the 



working page in bondage. Here are such 
questions: Who wrote this book? When was 
it written? Where was it written? Under 
what conditions and in the midst of what 
events? The Holy Spirit does not denature 
a writer's personal traits or make him ut- 
terly independent of his time. He lives in- 
deed under the aspect of eternity, for God 
is pleased to use him, but he is used as the 
servant of God in his own place and age. 
A writer in our time, however obedient to 
the divine summons, could hardly forbear 
any mention of communism. So Bible 
writers addressed themselves to the case in 
point, and found in contemporary events 
God's stern or gentle providence. The In- 
troductions answer these inescapable ques- 
tions. So a wise reader will regard the words 
"See Intro." as a command to be eagerly 

The Bible teacher in particular will find 
the Introductions an indispensable aid. 
What happenings, God's handwriting in 
history, brought Amos from his flocks and 
sycamore trees to the king's palace and the 
haunts of the "prophets"? What appearance 
did his land wear, and what culture pre- 
vailed? Amos is a partly closed book until 
such questions are answered. What did men 
believe about human suffering when Job 
was written, and what travail of soul gave 
us that sublime drama? What history, with 
its successive hammerings of conquest until 
Israel became a blood-stained anvil, pro- 
vides the background for the apocalypse of 
Daniel? What transpirings dictated the 
mood under which Paul wrote the Epistle 
to the Romans? Who was the author of 
Matthew, and when was that book com- 
posed: in Jerusalem about seventy years 
after Jesus as scholars long supposed, or in 
Syria toward the turn of the first century as 
now appears? When such questions are 
answered, the prayer 

O may these heavenly pages be 

My ever dear delight; 
And still new beauties may I see, 

And still increasing light 

is fulfilled; and the preacher or teacher be- 
comes "a workman that needeth not to be 

There is danger that any reader of the 
Bible will read it by verses. The Introduc- 
tions, showing the relation of the parts to 

the whole, rescue him from that danger. 
There were no verses in the original manu- 
scripts. Indeed in the Greek text there were 
no spaces between the words. The Synoptic 
Gospels were intended for the instruction of 
young beginners in the Christian faith, 
and were written in stories and paragraphs 
rather than in verses. To cite another in- 
stance: Deutero-Isaiah consists in part of 
"oracles" stanza-jets of white-hot prophecy. 
Perhaps preachers should preach on the 
proper units of Scripture rather than on 
phrases or verses torn, sometimes with 
violence or disfigurement, from their con- 
text. Certainly Bible classes and congrega- 
tions would be edified if the interpreter 
oftener expounded a whole book. Then 
Jonah would be seen for what it is, a stirring 
challenge to a missionary faith that shall 
make the whole world one family around 
the feet of God. Then Luke-Acts would be 
seen in its original wholeness the deeds of 
the Spirit of Christ recorded in proper 
sequel to his deeds in the flesh. 

There are two other features of the Intro- 
duction that give outstanding help. First, 
there is an outline immediately following 
the title, in which the general reader or 
teacher will find guidance as he studies what 
follows, and which provides a pondered 
scheme for any instruction he may wish to 
give. Second, there is a good bibliography 
at the end of each Introduction, whereby 
the reader may pursue further study. The 
Interpreters Bible is vast in scope, compris- 
ing in all about eight million words; but it 
is still hardly more than a primer when 
compared with all that has been written on 
the Scriptures through the centuries. There- 
fore the bibliographies. The Introduction 
to Matthew, for instance, divides the bibli- 
ography into three parts commentaries, 
other works, and books that discuss the most 
important ancient sources. So the editors 
earnestly recommend the reading of the 
Introductions. The man who lives only 
within the working page of The Interpre- 
ter's Bible is hardly better than one who 
knows his own house and street but is 
ignorant of his city. 

The General Articles 

Just as the Introductions provide a neces- 
sary background for the working page, so 



the General Articles explain and illumine 
the Introductions. The simile in the preced- 
ing paragraph could be extended: the man 
who knows his own city without knowing 
his nation and world would still be igno- 
rant. Who can understand Chicago with- 
out any knowledge of the streams of immi- 
gration by which its life has been fed, or of 
the prairies and lakes that sustain it, or of 
its problems of government? But many a 
reader of the Bible is correspondingly igno- 
rant of its wider setting. This hinterland of 
Scripture sustains it, almost as streams of 
immigration and the fertility of prairies 
maintain an American city. Take the in- 
stances. In what sense is Scripture inspired? 
Two articles answer that question: "The 
Bible: Its Significance and Authority"; and 
another, which is actually three articles in 
one, "The History of the Interpretation of 
the Bible." From what wider history has the 
Old Testament come to us? Two articles 
satisfy that query: "The Old Testament 
World" and "The Faith of Israel/' The 
former shows the origins of the Hebrew 
people in the Fertile Crescent, and how 
their history was affected by the political 
and military adventures of encompassing 
empires; the latter provides criteria without 
which no reader can properly judge "the 
Law, the Prophets, and the Writings/' 

Instances regarding the New Testament 
could be cited with as sharp or sharper 
point. Perhaps Volume VII should have 
been entitled Mark-Matthew, and Volume 
VIII Luke-Acts. The editors held to the 
traditional order lest they be accused of 
iconoclasm or hankering after novelty, but 
the new titles might still have been justified; 
for sudden illumination falls on the New 
Testament when the reader comes to terms 
with the chronological order of its books 
many of the epistles first, then Mark a full 
generation after Jesus, then Luke-Acts and 
Matthew after almost another generation, 
then John and the other books. Another 
wave of light breaks when the reader real- 
izes that not the epistles only, but the Gos- 
pels also, stem from the life of the early 
church. So the article on "The Growth of 
the Gospels" and those on "The History of 
the Early Church" are literally and urgently 
a "priority"; that is to say, an indispensable 
asset for which other assets must, if necessity 
dictates, for a time be sacrificed. Any reader, 

student, or would-be interpreter, will find 
added value in the General Articles in that 
they also begin with a synopsis and end 
with a bibliography. 

The articles instanced are not more valu- 
able than the others: they are used only as 
example, and they would themselves be in- 
complete without their companion articles. 
This feature alone of the Commentary com- 
prises about half a million words, a small 
library in itself. The order of the articles 
and their location, whether in Volume I or 
Volume VII, have been carefully pondered; 
and each author has been chosen for his 
knowledge of a particular field. Here as in 
a panorama pass in review the history, the 
tides of immigration, the world-terrain of 
the city of the Scriptures. If a reader is 
ignorant of this vast and teeming hinter- 
land, the Scriptures may baffle rather than 
inspire. In New York City the name Stuy- 
vesant Square is only a name until a man 
knows the early history of New York, the 
teeming East Side with its belts of popula- 
tion, the bond between the U.S.A. and 
Europe, barges on the Hudson carrying 
coal from Pennsylvania, and grain elevators 
fed from the harvests of North Dakota. 
This illustration is not invincible, for the 
Bible has a power of its own to pierce man's 
ignorance; but that power finds swifter and 
surer release when the Bible reader knows 
the background of the Book. 

Maps and Indexes 

The maps in The Interpreter's Bible de- 
serve more than casual mention. They pic- 
ture the word-truth of working page, Intro- 
duction, and General Article. For when the 
pilot of the plane says through the loud- 
speaker, "Such-and-such a mountain is now 
on our right," the passenger can say to him- 
self, if he has a map before him, "I see 
where we arel" The Interpreter's Bible pro- 
vides a map for almost every book of the 
Bible. These are in black-and white outline 
for clarity, and placed in proper context. 
Certain additional maps of the same kind 
have been given, such as that of Jerusalem 
in New Testament times, this particular 
map having been set just before the General 
Articles in Volume VII. There are also four 
large maps in color. On the front end-pages 
of the Old Testament volumes is a color 



map of the early Old Testament world, 
featuring the Fertile Crescent; and on the 
back end-pages of the same volumes, a map 
of Palestine in the middle period of Old 
Testament history. As for the New Testa- 
ment volumes, the color map on the front 
end-pages shows the Eastern Mediterranean 
world in New Testament times, and that on 
the back end-pages shows Palestine in New 
Testament times. These color maps have 
been specially drawn for The Interpreter's 
Bible in such a way as to emphasize the 
land contours. The maps of Palestine are 
portrayed as if seen from the east, from "the 
wilderness beyond Jordan/' because the 
mountains and valleys are more clearly 
marked when viewed from such an angle. 
By the help of these maps the Bible reader 
can say of the journey of Abraham from 
Ur of the Chaldees, "I see where he 
trekked"; and of the fateful travel of the 
man who "fell among thieves," he can ex- 
claim, "I understand now how he went 
down from Jerusalem to Jericho!" 

The Indexes to the twelve volumes, found 
in Volume XII, are designed for their prac- 
ticality. They provide far more than an aid 
to reading memory or a ready-finder. They 
are a guide to topical study, whether the 
topic be theological, historical, or homiletic, 
There will be three indexes for which over 
three hundred and fifty pages are allotted. 
The first index (first in importance, though 
last in order) is general so named and so 
planned, with every subject and name ap- 
pearing in its alphabetical place, to elimi- 
nate needless shuttling from index to index; 
yet so implemented with subentries, re- 
peated entries, and cross references that one 
can find all facets of such topics as "redemp- 
tion," which instantly commend themselves 
for study, carefully displayed under one 
heading. The second index will list scrip- 
ture passages referred to out of context, so 
that a reader studying a passage in Romans 
may know, for example, if that same verse 
has been discussed in the volume on Gala- 
tians. No attempt has been made to avoid 
duplication, as, for instance, in the Exegesis 
and Exposition of parallel passages in the 
Synoptic Gospels; for the editors have felt 
that such duplication adds value to the 
Commentary by giving two interpretations 
(to cite a case in point) rather than one o 
the parable of the lost sheep. The third 

index consists of illustrations. There is a 
wealth of such material in these volumes, 
of far better quality and far vaster scope 
than any "book of illustrations" has pro- 
vided; and this particular index offers this 
wealth at quick avail. 

A house in Bruges has a motto inscribed 
on a rafter near the front door: "There Is 
More Within." This brief guide to The 
Interpreter's Bible only echoes that motto 
or, at best, only summarizes some main 
values. The very paper on which the Com- 
mentary is printed has been chosen with 
costly care for its lasting whiteness, light- 
ness, and strength; , and the bindings like- 
wise have durability corresponding to their 
worthy and attractive appearance. Yet these 
externals only hint the inner treasure, for 
there is hardly a page that does not lead 
out and on, like a Columbus voyage, into 
a new world. 

There is only one Book. That Book is the 
noun; other books are but poor adjectives. 
God renews in this Book, age on age, his 
covenant with his people. For fifty or sixty 
years there has been, at least in the English 
-language, no comprehensive commentary 
on the Holy Scriptures. Now comes this 
Commentary, with better manuscripts as 
initial resource and with better knowledge 
than other commentaries could have 
claimed. It appears at a crucial juncture in 
history, when (if our human eyes can 
judge) one age is dying, and another is be- 
ing born from a "holy void.^No age Can 
safely neglect the Book, least of all an age 
in transition; for an age that has struck its 
tents and is on the move needs even more 
than other ages a pillar of cloud by day and 
a pillar of fire by night. The Bible tells of 
Israel, the chosen people through whom 
God's purpose has been made known to 
our world; it tells of Christ, than whom 
there is "no other name ... by which we 
must be saved." There are signs that our 
era is turning from ruinous doctrines of 
self-help to a new obedience to God's will 
and power, from man's exploitive skill to a 
trust in God's mercy in Jesus Christ. We 
pray that The Interpreter's Bible may has- 
ten that turning, and prepare the way 
along which Christ shall come to reign in 
love, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." 



The Interpreter's Bible is presented as 
the embodiment of a comprehensive Chris- 
tian biblical scholarship. Eminent scholars 
and interpreters living in different parts 
of the world, but at one in their zeal 
for truth, have been drawn upon to con- 
tribute to this Commentary. The list of 
those who have had a part in its making 
is a roster of persons renowned for distin- 
guished leadership in the field of biblical 
interpretation. To each of these contribu- 
tors every encouragement has been ex- 
tended by the Editorial Board, so that out 
of the richness of their ripened scholarship, 
and out of the warmth of their expositional 
interpretation, The Interpreter's Bible may 
go forth to accomplish the mission for 
which it was created to interpret anew the 
timeless truth of God's holy Word. 

It will be expected, of course, that among 
125 different writers there will be a certain 
diversity of interpretation, not only about 
passages of Scripture whose meanings have 
always been debated, but even about "ac- 
cepted" passages. It is the glory of Protes- 
tantism that each believer has the right to 
be guided by his own mind and conscience 
under God's Spirit in matters of faith and 
its interpretation. The Protestant principle 
of "the priesthood of all believers" so af- 
firms, and thus grants to every Christian 
the right to hold and to declare his own 
sense of Christian truth, provided he keeps 
within the bond of corporate love and 
prayer. There is real merit in honestly dif- 
fering points of view, granted this funda- 
mental concern for the fellowship of be- 

This advantage has been sought in The 
Interpreter's Bible. Although uniformity 
of presentation has of course been called 
for, according to the general plan of the 
Commentary, in the interpretation itself 
the exegetical and expository skill of the 
separate contributors has been depended 

upon to have full play in all those ways 
which would make for a deeper apprecia- 
tion of the sacred Word. At the same time 
every effort has been made to see that all 
interpretation be constructive and edifying, 
and that nothing captious or capricious ap- 
pear. The writers have been encouraged to 
speak the truth in love by such light as 
God has given to their reverent and dis- 
ciplined minds. Truth always has a self- 
evidencing power, nowhere more so than 
in the pages of sacred Scripture, and the 
overwhelming fact is not that Christian 
scholars and exegetes differ from each other 
in interpreting biblical truth, but that they 
so heartily agree in all its essentials. 

The Bible is a book of infinite variety, 
and both those who would read and those 
who would interpret the riches of its truth 
must be prepared, like the scribes of old, to 
discover within it treasures both new and 
old. The thoughts of God are always wider 
than the measure of man's mind; but that 
mind, with understanding reverence, has 
the power given it by the Creator to read 
God's thoughts after him in his holy Word. 

Long ago a scholarly father of the church 
said that the Bible ought to be read by the 
light of that same Spirit through whom it 
was written. This is true, and of all men's 
interpretations we must say, 

They are but broken lights of thee, 
And thou, O Lord, art more than they. 

God abides; his Word abides; and his Holy 
Spirit, coming imperceptibly like the morn- 
ing light or in sudden lightning flash, is the 
best interpreter of his Word. So from many 
minds and much labor and consecration 
this great work goes forth, in the prayer 
that it may redound to the glory of God 
and advance the cause of Christian life and 
truth in the world. 




For fifty years no full-scale commentary 
has been produced in the English language 
on the whole Bible. Exegetical studies on 
the one hand and expository aids on the 
other have appeared, not with a "great gulf 
fixed" between them, but with too little 
mutual concern. Both scholarship and 
preaching have suffered from the separa- 
tion: perhaps scholarship has tended to bar- 
ren erudition, and preaching to "vain imag- 
inings" vain because of somewhat tenuous 
contact with the meaning of Scripture. 
Preachers, teachers, and other students of 
the Bible need a threefold resource: namely, 
introduction to Scripture and the individ- 
ual books, exegesis of the text, and relevant 
exposition. We hope not only that The 
Interpreters Bible will meet this need, but 
that it may disclose unsuspected treasures 
for those who would bring forth "things 
new and old" from the "unsearchable 
riches" of the Book. 

Recent decades have seen a notable in- 
crease in biblical knowledge. New manu- 
scripts of portions of both the Old and the 
New Testaments have been found, of con- 
siderably earlier date than those on which 
the standard text had previously been 
based, with consequent gain both in textual 
study and historical criticism. Archaeology, 
the scrutiny of ancient papyri, and research 
in comparative philology and literature and 
religion have all thrown light on the mean- 
ing of the Scriptures. Careful and reverent 
investigation has dated the various books of 
the Bible with far greater accuracy than was 
formerly possible; and this new chronology 
has been a lamp to our feet as witness our 
fresh understanding of Isaiah, or of Mat- 
thew and Luke when these Gospels are com- 
pared with their Marcan source. Study of 
the text, especially in the light of Deiss- 
mann's brilliant realization that the New 
Testament manuscripts are written in ver- 
nacular rather than in literary Greek or in 
some special biblical vehicle, has brought 
the meaning of word and phrase into 

sharper focus. Form criticism has helped 
us to see how the traditions of the Hebrew 
fathers, the laws of the priests, the poems 
of the prophets and psalmists on the one 
hand, and the records of the teaching of 
Jesus on the other, have taken form and 
color, perhaps inevitably, from the life- 
situation respectively of the Hebrew com- 
munity and the first-century church an 
insight that is our gain rather than our loss. 
Above all, present theological trends have 
confirmed and renewed the faith of the 
church in the Bible as the very Word of 
God. So revolutionary is this whole body 
of knowledge that many of the older com* 
mentaries, despite their integrity in labor, 
are in some regards out-of-date. 

But more than scholarship is needed in a 
true commentary. The gospel is eternal: 
from age to age we may catch new accents in 
God's Word to men, but the Word itself is 
from the foundation of the world. Similarly 
we may trace new marvels in the realm of 
light, as astrology gives place to the ever- 
growing wonder of astronomy, but the light 
abides unchanging, blessing all men's eyes, 
shining in every lowly place, even though 
we may understand only that light is light. 
Growing knowledge about the Bible is not 
enough to save us, any more than bricks 
are enough to make a home. The Spirit of 
the crucified and risen Lord must dwell in 
the knowledge, or the knowledge itself be- 
comes a prison. Therefore a double demand 
confronts every commentary on the Scrip- 
tures: first, to be true to the clearer under- 
standing that waits on reverent study, since 
God always has "new light to break from 
his Word 1 '; and second, to avow its unwa- 
vering fealty to God's Incarnate Word by 
whose forgiving grace all men live. The 
Interpreters Bible earnestly desires to meet 
this double demand: it would be honest in 
the truth that makes men free, and it would 
cleave to the evangel of Christ born, cruci- 
fied, and risen "for us men and for our 



The name The Interpreters Bible was 
chosen not only because it shows well the 
purpose of these volumes, but because it 
carries pleasing echoes of "The Interpreter's 
House" where Christian, in Bunyan's in- 
spired record, learned the deeper meanings 
of the gospel. The editors whose names ap- 
pear facing the title page of the Commen- 
tary have come from different denomina- 
tional backgrounds, and the writers repre- 
sent almost every branch of the Christian 
church. For several years they have labored 
on this project, with a sense of mission and 
in prayer. Not only has there been no 
difference in spirit; there has been mutual 
trust deepening into friendship in the grace 
of Christ. Thus divergences in opinion 
have only added zest, comradeship, and 
wisdom in the task. 

Slowly the Commentary has grown. 
Thirty-six consultants, drawn from all the 
larger Protestant groups in the English- 
speaking world, helped to guide the initial 
steps. The titles of general articles and the 
subjects of maps were determined. A style 
book was prepared to help contributors 
and to give consistency in form. The total 
number of words in the Commentary was 
estimated at approximately eight million. 
These were allotted in carefully planned 
proportions to general articles, and to the 
introduction, exegesis, and exposition of 
the separate books of the Bible. The con- 
tributors were then chosen; they represent 
the best exegetical and expository skill of 
our time. Manuscripts were carefully read, 
in each instance by both an exegetical and 
an expository editor, and changes made in 
co-operation with the respective authors. 
Questions of policy, foreseen and unfore- 
seen, were honestly faced and carefully an- 
swered. Type forms were selected for the 
three-part arrangement of text, exegesis, 
and exposition which itself resulted from 
the study of twenty samples. Finally the 
copy for the first-published volume, Mat- 
thew-Mark, was sent to the printer the 
"first fruits" of long labor and unrelin- 
quished hope. 

Some further remarks on the page format 
may be in order, for here also the Com- 
mentary breaks new ground, in line with 
the editorial resolve that The Interpreter's 
Bible shall provide comprehensive yet 

quickly available help to the student and 
teacher. At the top of the page in parallel 
columns are the King James Version and 
the Revised Standard Version of the scrip- 
ture passages under discussion, so that the 
differences in the two versions may instantly 
be seen. Below these are the exegetical com- 
ments, printed across the page, with the key 
phrases struck off in bolder type, like the 
"notes" appended to a Shakespearean text. 
Below these is the exposition, printed in 
two columns, and so written that it may 
give prompting and "opening" to the in- 
terpreter. Each book of the Bible is prefaced 
by a succinct but well-informed introduc- 
tion. General articles offer similar in- 
troduction to the whole book. A wide 
roster of maps gives visual aid. The Hebrew, 
Aramaic, and Greek terms are quoted where 
these are needed for clarity, but their use 
has been held to a minimum in favor of the 
easier-to-understand "transliteration/* We 
believe that the reader who does not know 
the original languages will find no undue 
obstacle. The Hebrew and Greek letter 
fonts have been chosen to accord with the 
clear and attractive Baskerville type of the 
English text. 

The editor would be recreant in debt of 
gratitude should he fail to acknowledge 
the invaluable help of his colleagues. The 
associate editors have worked unflaggingly, 
and with such stanch friendliness that it 
would be hard to imagine a more kindling 
esprit de corps. The consulting editors not 
only served as judicious advisers and critics 
in the planning of fundamental policies but 
have continued to provide wise counsel and 
encouragement. Contributors have exer- 
cised in Christian restraint the freedom they 
have been gladly accorded. They have ex- 
pressed individual conviction, as the editors 
have urged, but have honored differing 
convictions; and they have not only ac- 
cepted, but have sought and welcomed, edi- 
torial suggestion. Thomas Nelson and Sons 
and the International Council of Religious 
Education have given outright use not only 
of the Revised Standard Version of the New 
Testament already published, but also of 
the earlier drafts and the final version of 
the Old Testament while still in prepara- 
tion an extraordinary act of co-operation 
which has greatly enhanced the value of the 



Commentary. Thomas Nelson and Sons 
have also generously granted use of their 
black and white maps in sufficient number 
to illuminate each book of the Bible. Mr. 
Emil Lowenstein has prepared the excellent 
colored "dimensional maps" for the end 
pages of the volumes. 

Special appreciation has been earned by 
the publishers. They have shown as true a 
sense of mission as any editor or writer. 
They have steadfastly refused to spare ex- 
pense, even though they are well aware that 
their great financial investment may never 
be returned and certainly cannot be re- 
covered in this generation. The members 
of their official Board of Publication caught 
the vision of service to all Christendom, 
and authorized the project without limita- 
tion upon its cost. Dr. B. A. Whitmore and 
Dr. Fred D. Stone, Publishing Agents at the 
time of its inception, and Mr. Lovick Pierce 
and Dr. Roy L. Smith, their successors, have 
given wise counsel and direction to the 
whole endeavor. Dr. Nolan B. Harmon has 
served both as a member of the Editorial 
Board and in his official capacity as Editor 
of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press. Others 
should be mentioned by name: Mr. Pat 
Beaird, manager of the Press, who has given 
able over-all guidance and enthusiasm; Mr. 
Gordon Duncan, who wrote the style book 
and has provided constant help in that 
field; the Rev. Charles L, Wallis, who is 
responsible for the extensive indexes ap- 
pearing in the final volume; Mr. E. Sinclair 
Hertell, who has corrected the copy; Miss 
Bernice Coller, who has prepared all 
manuscripts for the printer and compassed 

the exceedingly hard task of page-setting; 
and Miss Elizabeth Stouffer, who has been 
not only secretary to the whole Board but 
also a competent editorial assistant. A 
special word of gratitude is due the printers, 
binders, Linotype operators, proofreaders, 
and others who have contributed their skill 
and by their eager interest become partners 
in the enterprise. It is difficult to believe 
that any endeavor could have found a more 
harmonious and indefatigable "task force'* 
than The Interpreter's Bible. For the editor 
the experience will always be a spring of 

Surely no commentary on the Bible has 
appeared at a more crucial juncture in his- 
tory. We live at the end of an age. Accus- 
tomed patterns in statecraft and commerce, 
as in the church itself, are dissolving: "The 
old order changeth, yielding place to new." 
Only dimly can any man foresee the "shape 
of things to come." But one truth is para- 
mount: God has spoken once and for all in 
Jesus Christ. In him alone can the world 
cohere. Each new age will not be new, but 
only "chaos and old night," if it does not 
worship Christ as Savior and sovereign 
Lord. The Holy Scriptures are sun by day 
and stars by night in every era of man's 
pilgrimage. Therefore a new commentary 
on the Bible is both timely and indispen- 
sable, for, in every unknown tomorrow, 
"thy word is a lamp unto my feet." It is our 
ardent prayer that The Interpreter's Bible 
may be used of God in the travail of our 
times for the coming of the kingdom of 
his Son. 





Canonical books and bibliographical terms are abbreviated according to common usage 

Amer. Trans. The 
Bible, An American 
Translation, Old Tes- 
tament, ed. J. M. P. 

Apoc. Apocrypha 

Aq. Aquila 

ASV American Stand- 
ard Version (1901) 

Barn. Epistle of Bar- 

Clem. Clement 

C.T. Consonantal Text 

Did. Didache 

Ecclus. Ecclesiasticus 

ERV English Revised 
Version (1881-85) 

Exeg. Exegesis 
Expos. Exposition 
Goodspeed The Bible, 
An American Trans- 
lation, New Testa- 
ment and Apocrypha, 
tr. Edgar J. Good- 

Herm. Vis., etc. The 
Shepherd of Hernias: 
Visions, Mandates, Si- 

Ign Eph., etc. Epistles 
of Ignatius to the 
Ephesians, Magnesi- 
ans, Trallians, Ro- 
mans, Philadelphians, 
Smyrnaeans, and Pol- 

KJV King James Ver- 
sion (1611) 

LXX Septuagint 

Mace. Maccabees 

Moffatt The Bible, A 
New Translation, by 
James Moffatt 

M T. Masoretic Text 

N.T. New Testament 

O.T. Old Testament 

Polyc. Phil. Epistle of 
Polycarp to the Phi- 

Pseudep. Pseudep igra- 

Pss. Sol. Psalms of Sol- 

Revised Standard 
Version (1946-52) 

Samar. Samaritan re- 

Symm. Symmachus 

Targ. Targum 

Test. Reuben, etc. 
Testament of Reuben, 
and others of the 
Twelve Patriarchs 

Theod. Theodotion 


Vulg. Vulgate 

Weymouth The New 
Testament in Modern 
Speech, by Richard 
Francis Weymouth 

Wisd. Sol. Wisdom of 


Boldface type in Exegesis and Exposition indi- 
cates a quotation from either the King James or the 
Revised Standard Version of the passage under 
discussion. The two versions are distinguished only 
when attention is called to a difference between 
them. Readings of other versions are not in boldface 
type and are regularly identified. 

In scripture references a letter (a, b, etc.) ap- 
pended to a verse number indicates a clause within 
the verse; an additional Greek letter indicates a sub- 
division within the clause. When no book is named, 
the book under discussion is understood. 

Arabic numbers connected by colons, as in scrip- 
ture references, indicate chapters and verses in 
deuterocanonical and noncanonical works. For other 
ancient writings roman numbers indicate major 
divisions, arabic numbers subdivisions, these being 
connected by periods. For modern works a roman 
number and an arabic number connected by a 
comma indicate volume and page. Bibliographical 
data on a contemporary work cited by a writer may 
be found by consulting the first reference to the 
work by that writer (or the bibliography, if the 
writer has included one) . 


= ch 

= th 




*( = 5 

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. = ^ which is indicated only when it 

= o SB* occurs on a syllable other than the 

T __ "" last, is transliterated by an acute 

\ "~ accent over the vowel, 








THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT Edgar J. Goodspeed ... 63 


THE ENGLISH BIBLE Allen Wikgren 84 


L ANCIENT PERIOD Robert M. Grant 106 


III. MODERN PERIOD Samuel Terrlen 127 

CHRONOLOGY, METROLOGY, ETC Georges AugustinEarrois 142 

THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE George Arthur Buttrick 165 




THE GROWTH OF THE HEXATEUCH Cuthbert A. Simpson , . 185 

THE PROPHETIC LITERATURE Hughell E. W. Fosbroke 201 

THE WISDOM LITERATURE William A. Irivin 212 





THE OLD TESTAMENT WORLD William F. Albright ... 233 

THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL Theodore H. Robinson. 272 


THE FAITH OF ISRAEL G. Ernest Wright .... 349 





INTRODUCTION Cuthbert A. Simpson . . 439 

EXPOSITION Walter Russell Bowie . , 458 

TEXT 46 * 

EXEGESIS Cuthbert A. Simpson . . 465 


INTRODUCTION 7* Coert Rylaarsdam ... 833 

EXPOSITION J.Edgar Park 849 

TEXT 851 

EXEGESIS / Coert Rylaarsdam ... 851 














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I. Normal or Essential Christianity 

A, God's Action "into" History 

B. God's Continuing Action in Christ 

II. The Essence of the Faith Harmonious with the 
Content and Structure of the Bible 

A. Continuity-Discontinuity in the Old Testa- 

B. Continuity-Discontinuity Between the Old 
and New Testaments 

C. Continuity-Discontinuity in the Person of 

III. The Normative Function of the Bible Within 
the Church 
A. The Bible as Essential to the Normative 

Relationship of the Living Christ to the 


From the earliest period of its history the 
Christian church has regarded the Scriptures as 
being in some sense the special revelation of 
God, and therefore as being in some sense the 
final standard or norm of Christian truth. The 
Old Testament seems to have been accepted 
from the beginning as an authoritative revela- 
tion of God, and it was not very long before the 
writings which came ultimately to form the 
New Testament were also in circulation, carry- 
ing a similar, though not precisely assessed, 
authority. No consistent or unanimous answer 
has, however, been given by the church to the 
question in what sense exactly the Scriptures 
are the revelation of God and the standard of 
truth. This article is intended to be a contribu- 
tion to the answering of this question as it con- 
fronts the Christian believer today. It is written 
from the angle of Christian faith and experi- 
ence as these are shared and known within the 
fellowship of the Christian church: that is to 
say, it accepts as a datum the uniquely norma- 
tive status which the church has always assigned 
to the Bible, and it endeavors to explore its 
meaning and bearings in relation to the Chris- 
tian faith taken as a whole. In other words, the 
question of the Bible is here considered as a 
theological question; the answering of it in- 
volves raising the question as to what the Chris- 
tian faith essentially is, for only on that basis 

1. The Trustworthiness of the Gospel Rec- 

2. The Gospels as Faith Documents 

3. How Written Records Enter into Christ's 
Living Relationship to the Church 

B. Limits of the Canon 
IV. The Nature of the Authority of the Bible 

A. The Authority of the Bible Not Different 
from That of Christ 

B. Some Principles of Discrimination and In- 

C. The Bible as the Word of God 

D. The Bible as the Authoritative Basis of 

V. Selected Bibliography 

can we determine the essential significance and 
authority of the Bible. 

It is, of course, possible to approach the Bible 
from other angles, in relation to other interests 
and beliefs. The books of the Bible are so 
various, and cover alike in their origin and 
content so vast a period of time, that they pro- 
vide invaluable material for the historian, the 
archaeologist, the anthropologist, and many 
others. Each of these, in using the biblical mate- 
rial, in effect asks and answers the question of 
the significance and authority of the Bible for 
his particular study. Such different approaches 
may provide important material for the Chris- 
tian theologian inquiring into the significance 
and authority of the Bible for the Christian 
faith; indeed, there is no reason why the Chris- 
tian theologian himself should not on occasion 
study the Bible, not as a theologian, but as a 
historian, an archaeologist, or an anthropolo- 
gist. The question whether in pursuing such 
studies he should seek to divest himself of his 
Christian convictions and presuppositions we 
need not explore. The point is that however 
much the various ways of studying the Bible 
may interact, the special interest of the Chris- 
tian theologian as such, and the one which gov- 
erns this article, remains quite distinct: we 
raise the question of the significance and author- 
ity of the Bible as part of the wider theological 

question o the essence of the Christian faith 
which the church is commissioned to proclaim 
to the world. 

This being the line of approach, we are im- 
mediately confronted with a difficulty. As has 
been said, we can determine in what sense ex- 
actly the Bible has the pre-eminent normative 
status in the church's life, which has always been 
given to it, only on the basis of our general 
understanding of the Christian faith. But, it 
may be said, if the Bible has such a status, how 
can we reach a general understanding of the 
essence of the Christian faith prior to and inde- 
pendently of our understanding of that status? 
We appear to be involved in a circle. If the 
Bible is the final standard, then we can know 
nothing for certain concerning the essentials of 
the Christian faith apart from it; yet if we know 
nothing for certain about the essentials apart 
from the Bible, how can we know for certain 
this particular "essential/' namely, that the 
Bible is such a standard, and how can we know 
the right way to use it as such a standard? It is 
obviously no way out of the difficulty to quote 
the Bible itself as an authoritative witness to its 
own supreme normative status, for apart from 
the fact that it makes no claim to such a status, 
it is clear that even if it did, to concede the claim 
on the ground of its own ipse dixit would be 
to beg the whole question. (The statement made 
in II Tim. 3:16 cannot be taken as such a claim, 
for it gives no indication as to what exactly is 
meant by the words "inspired by God/' or what 
writings are to be regarded as so inspired. 
Furthermore, the verse does not do more than 
declare that inspired scripture is "profitable for 
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for 
training in righteousness" a statement which 
nobody would wish to question, whatever his 
views on the Bible might be. To declare that 
certain writings are profitable, and to declare 
them to be in some sense a final standard or 
norm, are two very different things.) 

The difficulty, however, is more apparent 
than real, and arises out of a failure to dis- 
tinguish between two types of standard or norm. 
There are what may be called extrinsic or static 
norms, and there are what may be called in- 
trinsic or organic norms. An example of the 
former is the measuring rod or yardstick, which 
exists independently of the objects it measures: 
it is brought to the objects, or they are brought 
to it, and the transaction being concluded, the 
two continue to exist independently. An ex- 
ample of the latter is the indwelling normative 
principle which informs a living organism, so 
that it grows to and is preserved in its distinctive 
maturity amidst the changes and challenges of 
its environment. An organism has within it 
something which can only be thought of as a 


kind of "spirit of the whole/' which keeps all 
the various biochemical processes in a specific 
unity or balance with one another. Such a nor- 
mative principle obviously has no existence 
apart from the organism, and the organism has 
no existence apart from it: the organic processes, 
and the normative principle which informs 
them and binds them into a unity, though dis- 
tinguishable in thought, constitute a single, in- 
divisible reality. A better example, for our pur- 
pose, of an intrinsic norm (better because it 
takes us into the realm of the personal) is that 
impalpable and indefinable, but very real, some- 
thing which we think of as the spirit of a nation 
or an institution. Such a statement as "It is 
un-American, or un-English, to do so-and-so" 
(despite the deplorable misuse to which it is 
sometimes put) rests on the recognition of a 
normative factor within the national life which 
is really "there/' impossible though it be to give 
it either precise definition or exact location. 
It is an immanent or intrinsic norm, dwelling 
within and informing a people in a character- 
istic way, and having no existence whatever 
apart from them. This is not to say that there 
are no explicit formulations of the norm to 
which appeal can be made when occasion de- 
mands. The laws of a people, the constitutional 
practice (written or unwritten) which directs 
the form and process of its government, its re- 
corded history, its highest and most distinctive 
cultural products, especially its literature all 
these are in large degree permanently and pub- 
licly accessible, just as the yardstick is. Never- 
theless the norm, even in its written expression, 
never becomes like the yardstick extrinsic to 
the things it informs and measures, for nobody 
can understand it, still less rightly interpret and 
use it, who does not share in the spirit of the 
people, the esprit de corps, which it not only 
expresses but also creates and fosters. 

The normative relation of the Bible to the faith 
and life of the church is clearly of the intrinsic 
kind. It is, we must insist, not the less a true 
norm for being intrinsic; indeed, it is not the 
less a final norm, in the sense that no question 
of faith or conduct can be deemed to be rightly 
determined which is not thought out with the 
Bible, as it were, being present throughout the 
discussion and taking a dominant and authorita- 
tive part in it. Nevertheless, what the Bible says 
can be rightly interpreted only by those who 
livingly share in the distinctively Christian life 
within the fellowship of the church; for this life, 
though it could not arise or be preserved with- 
out the Bible, always includes far more than is 
or ever could be contained in or expressed 
through a written record. These are matters 
which will be more fully explored in the course 
of this article; it is enough at the moment to 


insist that if we think of the Bible as exercising 
an intrinsically normative function within the 
life of the church, the difficulty about circular 
reasoning disappears. If it is true that we can- 
not rightly apprehend the essentials of the 
Christian faith and life without using the Bible 
as an authoritative source and norm, it is 
equally true that we cannot apprehend the 
Bible as such a source and norm, still less rightly 
use it, apart from a living participation in the 
church's faith and life. This is not to argue in 
a circle, because the Bible, in its function as 
norm, and the church's faith and life are or- 
ganically one, and form a single, indivisible 

This suggests the plan we may follow in seek- 
ing to grasp and expound the significance and 
authority of the Bible. We shall start from the 
thought just indicated, that the Christian faith 
and life as manifested within and sustained by 
the fellowship of the church constitute an or- 
ganic whole which, in spite of its many variant 
developments in the course of the centuries and 
its many aberrations from its own ideal, has per- 
sisted in a recognizably distinct form through- 
out a whole in which we ourselves now share, 
and within which the Bible has an immanently 
normative place and function. The task of the 
Christian will then be so to expound faith that 
(a) it is seen to be in harmony with the actual 
content of the Bible itself, for clearly if what is 
set forth as "normal" Christianity (in the sense 
of being "regular or usual or not deviating from 
the common type") is not in harmony with what 
is acknowledged to be "normative" (in the sense 
of setting up a standard) , then the unity of the 
organism of Christian faith and life is seriously 
broken; (b) the normative function of the 
Bible within the whole is fully preserved and 
explained; and (c) the way in which that nor- 
mative function is to be exercised is made clear. 

The plan will be to speak first of the essence 
of the Christian faith, and then to develop this 
in relation to points (a) , (b) , and (c) in turn. 

I. Normal or Essential Christianity 

The necessity of starting from the thought 
of the Christian faith and life within the church 
as an organic whole might suggest that nothing 
less than an exposition of the whole content 
of the faith is required if we are to understand 
the significance and authority of the Bible 
within it. Fortunately that is not so. Just be- 
cause we are dealing with an organic whole, 
and are particularly interested in the normative 
factors within it, all that is required is a grasp 
of that central and controlling truth which im- 
parts and preserves to the whole its specifically 
Christian character, distinguishing it once and 
for all from other religious "wholes," no matter 

what partial identities or similarities there may 
otherwise be. 

There can hardly be division of opinion as 
to what this central and controlling "essence" 
of Christian faith and life is. It is belief in the 
Incarnation the conviction that God himself 
came, and comes, into human history in the 
person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God 
himself in action within history "for us men and 
for our salvation," in a way that is unique, 
final, adequate, and indispensable. "There is 
none other name under heaven given among 
men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) ; 
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only 
begotten Son" (John 3:16) ; "God was in Christ, 
reconciling the world unto himself" (II Cor. 
5:19). There have, of course, been great differ- 
ences among Christians as to the precise signifi- 
cance and implications of this central affirma- 
tion of the Incarnation, the grounds for making 
it, the way in which the divine action it de- 
scribes is wrought out in men's lives; and some 
have interpreted it in ways that have seemed to 
others to be destructive of its distinctively Chris- 
tian meaning. But it hardly can be questioned 
that unless a man is prepared to make the 
affirmation in some sense or other, then, no 
matter how much he may in fact owe to Chris- 
tian teaching, or may accept and exemplify 
Christian moral values, any claim he may make 
to be a specifically Christian believer, with a 
specifically Christian gospel to preach, is, to say 
the least, extremely dubious. This is not a 
merely personal view; on the contrary, it is 
hardly more than a report of evident historical 
truth. However much and rightly we may dis- 
like heresy hunting, and whatever difficulty may 
arise in border line cases, the fact remains that 
the belief in the Incarnation has been the cen- 
tral, distinctive, all-controlling belief of the 
Christian movement all down the ages; it is the 
heart and center of what may be called "his- 
toric" Christianity, meaning by that simply 
Christianity as a movement having a distinctive 
character and being identifiable as such, in spite 
of all its variant and even conflicting forms, 
throughout the centuries. 

The statement of the dogma of the Incarna- 
tion just made that God himself came, and 
comes, into human history in the person of 
Jesus Christ does not, however, suffice without 
further explication to bring out the distinctive 
essence of the Christian faith as this is deter- 
minative of the significance and authority of the 
Bible within it. To do this we must concentrate 
on two things in the statement the word 
"into" and the phrase "came, and comes." We 
shall take each in turn. 

A. God's Action "into 9 ' History. There are 
two ways in which the word "into" might be 


interpreted. These may be made plain by a 
somewhat fantastic illustration, Suppose that 
I am dropped from an airplane into the midst 
of a savage people, with the commission to trans- 
form their life into something very much 
higher, and suppose that I am given power to 
effect whatsoever I will. I am, as it were, a 
savior come down "for these men and for their 
salvation." How shall I go to work? I can do 
either of two things. 

In the first place, I can, if I choose, put into 
operation at once the higher civilized life which 
I represent. Using the unlimited resources at 
my disposal, I can break up the tribal organiza- 
tion of these people, pour scorn on their tradi- 
tions, prohibit their low moral codes, annihilate 
their primitive culture in one gigantic up- 
heaval and revolution pound everything to 
pieces and then force the pieces into the mold 
of my own plans and ideals. Suppose that, im- 
possible though it is, I succeed in doing this. 
Is it not clear that while in one sense I have 
acted into their history, in another sense I have 
not acted into their history at all? For what I 
have done is to negate and annihilate their 
history and put something radically discontinu- 
ous and new in its place. To make what may 
seem a fine distinction though it is really an 
important one and exactly expresses the point 
my coming as their savior has been into their 
history, but not in and through it: it has been, 
as it were, down the vertical, but not along the 
horizontal. In a similar way, a bomb which 
drops from the sky and destroys my house, while 
in one sense it is an event in the history of the 
house, in another sense it is not, for it is in fact 
the end of the history of the house. There is 
"before" but no "after"; indeed, strictly speak- 
ing, there is no "before," for nothing in its 
previous history had anything to do with the 
coming of the bomb. That dropped from the 
skies, a bolt from the blue. 

The alternative line of action has already 
been indicated by contrast. Instead of annihilat- 
ing the tribe's whole manner of life, I may take 
the trouble to "get inside" it, to make myself 
one with it, to work from within it, to re-create 
it on the basis of whatsoever there is of good 
in it, whatsoever is usable in relation to the 
higher mode of life to which I am commissioned 
to lift it. The effect of this will be that the new 
mode of life, though new, will still have the 
impress of the tribe's own distinctive history 
and character upon it. It will be saving action 
not merely into their history, but also in and 
through it. There will be continuity between 
the new life and the old the pattern will, so 
to speak, run on, the fabric will come off the 
loom in one piece; it will still be their history. 
And yet at the same time there will be radical 

discontinuity, for my dropping from the air- 
plane, and all that I bring with me, will not 
have been anything that their previous history 
could have produced by itself. If I had not 
dropped from above, their history would have 
continued indefinitely on its former degraded 
level. There is continuity, yet also discontinuity. 

To return now to the fundamental Christian 
affirmation of the Incarnation. The Christian 
faith, when it has been true to itself, has always 
maintained that God's saving action in Christ 
was along the line of the second alternative in 
our fantastic parallel. It was action into history 
in that Christ's coming was something radically 
new, an irruption "vertically" from above, 
something which, without God's deliberate in- 
tention thus personally to come among men, 
could not have happened, something utterly be- 
yond the resources of human history to bring 
forth. On the other hand, it was also action in 
and through history along the "horizontal": 
there was real continuity with what had gone 
before in the ordinary web and texture of hu- 
man affairs, and with what came afterward. 
The Incarnation was real history, yet not 
merely history: there was real continuity, yet 
also radical discontinuity. 

The phrase "when it has been true to itself," 
which was used at the beginning of the last 
paragraph, may sound somewhat question beg- 
ging. But if we allow Christianity to define 
itself by its own dominant historical manifesta- 
tions, there can be no question that the insist- 
ence on both the "into" and the "in and 
through" aspects of the Incarnation the re- 
pudiation on the one hand of any tendency to 
assert discontinuity at the expense of continuity, 
and on the other hand of any tendency to assert 
continuity at the expense of discontinuity has 
characterized the main tradition of the faith. 
And this is the more clear when we realize that 
this main tradition has had continually to assert 
itself against the two opposed tendencies just 
referred to, both in their obvious and more 
subtle forms just as in the compass the hold- 
ing power of the magnetic north is most clearly 
evidenced by the oscillations of the needle on 
either side of it. Thus the distinction usually 
drawn between the Antiochian and the Alex- 
andrian schools of christological thought in the 
early centuries obviously represents in a broad 
way the two sides of the antithesis. The Anti- 
ochian school tended to lay the major emphasis 
on the humanity of Jesus that is, on his con- 
tinuity with history. The extreme wing of this 
school was adoptionism, with its teaching that 
Jesus was merely an unusually good man in 
whom the divine Spirit was able to dwell in 
greater degree than in other men, though not 
in a way that was essentially different which 


comes as near to denying discontinuity as is com- 
patible with making any plausible claim to a 
distinctively Christian gospel of the Incarna- 
tion. The Alexandrian school tended to lay 
the major emphasis on the divinity of Jesus, 
that is, on his discontinuity with history. On the 
extreme wing of this school was Docetism, with 
its assertion that the human side of Jesus was 
mere "seeming," a phantasm of humanity 
which comes as near denying continuity as is 
compatible with making any plausible claim to 
a distinctively Christian gospel of the Incarna- 
tion. In the end the problem defined itself 
(as the Formula of Chalcedon Indicates) as 
the problem of asserting both the continuity 
and the discontinuity the genuine humanity 
rooted in history and the genuinely divine ir- 
ruption "into" history without impairing the 
unity of the Savior's person. In our own day it 
is possible to discern the same tension between 
continuity and discontinuity. Labels can be very 
unjust to individual thinkers, but broadly 
speaking, the reaction of the movement associ- 
ated with the name of Karl Barth, against what 
is vaguely called liberal Protestantism, as repre- 
sented, say, by Ernst Troeltsch or Adolf von 
Harnack, is, especially in the realm of Christol- 
ogy, the vigorous reassertion of discontinuity 
against a too exclusive emphasis on continuity; 
of the "into" or "vertical" against a falsifying 
preoccupation with the "in and through" or 
"horizontal" (see below, p. 11). 

B, God's Continuing Action in Christ. It 
was said above that God came, and comes, into 
human history in the person of Jesus Christ. 
The phrase "and comes" is important. 

The Christian faith affirms that God's saving 
action "into" and "in and through" history in 
Jesus Christ did not come to an end with the 
death of Jesus on Calvary. The action still con- 
tinues. It is still going on through the church, 
of which Christ is the living head, and in which 
he is present through the Holy Spirit as the 
creative and constitutive principle of its being 
and life. There are deep theological problems 
involved in this affirmation, into which it is 
not our business to enter here; but there can be 
no question that this conviction of the continu- 
ing, redeeming presence of Christ in the world 
is axiomatic in the Christian faith and life. It 
is only in relation to this belief that the mean- 
ing and the centrality of the Resurrection in 
the Christian gospel can be understood. The 
essence of the Christian faith concerning the 
Resurrection, as it is set forth in the New 
Testament, is not that Christ survived death 
according to some general capacity for survival 
inherent in the human soul as such, but rather 
that God raised him up; that is to say, the 
Resurrection was part of God's mighty act of 

redemption to save mankind and establish his 
kingdom. Furthermore, it is part of the same 
act of redemption that Christ thus raised up 
has not passed into the "beyond/' out of touch 
with men except as an inspiring memory. On 
the contrary, he has been raised to "God's right 
hand," and this means that he is now accessible, 
as a living, active presence mediated through 
the Holy Spirit, to all who give themselves to 
him in discipleship and faith. 

We may put it like this: the Resurrection 
and the Ascension constitute the link between 
two periods in the continuous "biography" of 
the Redeemer the period in which he dwelt 
among men in the flesh, subject to the limita- 
tions of time and space, and of which the culmi- 
nation was his crucifixion and burial, and the 
period in which in some mysterious way he 
transcends those limits and becomes the unseen 
and living Lord and Savior of all who hear his 
call and seek to obey it in penitence and trust 
and in mutual love. It would be misleading, if 
natural, to say that the first period was the 
earthly period while the second is the heavenly, 
for in both the sphere of his saving work, of 
God's saving action in him, is human life and 
human history. From this point of view it is 
legitimate to say that the Christian church as 
the fellowship created and sustained in history 
by Christ through the Holy Spirit is the exten- 
sion of the Incarnation. In this sense the church 
is part of the historical biography of Christ. 

In the light of this understanding of the 
essential Christian faith we can now take up 
the question of the significance and authority 
of the Bible within the total organism of the 
church's life. Each of the three points (a) , (b) , 
and (c) , set forth above, will be considered in 

11. The Essence of the Faith Harmonious with 
the Content and Structure of the Bible 

It was said that our task must be so to under- 
stand the Christian faith that we can see it to 
be deeply grounded in and harmonious with 
the content of the Bible, for otherwise typical 
Christianity would not be in accord with its 
own acknowledged norm, and the unity of the 
organism of Christian faith and life would be 
seriously disrupted. 

If then we concentrate on the central truth 
of the Incarnation, and in particular on its dual 
aspect of continuity-discontinuity, we find that 
this is in fact very deeply grounded in the whole 
structure and content of the Bible. Indeed, the 
Bible might be said to be built up throughout, 
in a way that is quite without parallel, on the 
continuity-discontinuity theme, the theme be- 
ginning with ancient Israel and reaching its 
consummation (at the same time disclosing its 


deep, underlying meaning) in the divine saving 
action in Christ. This may be expounded under 
three heads. 

A, Continuity-Discontinuity in the Old Testa- 
went. The picture of the people of Israel with 
which the Old Testament presents us through 
the wide variety of its contents historical nar- 
ratives, legal and liturgical codes, poetry, 
hymns, proverbs and maxims, utterances of 
great prophetic souls speaking in the name of 
God is obviously the picture of a people whose 
life is continuous with the life of mankind gen- 
erally. This is true in the first place in respect 
of the ordinary human nature of the persons 
concerned. To enter into the world of ancient 
Israel as it is disclosed to us in the pages of the 
Old Testament is to enter the same world of 
human actions and motives, loves and hates, pas- 
sions and sins, hopes and fears, as we ourselves 
know: the people and the situations which con- 
front them are recognizably "everyman" and 
the situation of "everyman." This is one reason 
why the Old Testament can still come alive for 
and speak to the perceptive and receptive 
mind today; and one reason also why it can 
always be read, if anyone chooses, simply as 
great literature. In the second place, it is true 
in respect of the forces which play upon Israel 
as a nation and determine the course of its his- 
tory. To understand the history of Israel it is as 
necessary to take note of the economic, social, 
political, international forces which were operat- 
ing in the ancient world as it would be to un- 
derstand the history of any other people of that 
time; we must know something of Egypt, Assyria, 
Babylon, Rome, of Sennacherib, Cyrus, Darius, 
and Alexander. The history of Israel thus takes 
its place in and is continuous with what may be 
called the wider secular history of mankind, 
and can be studied by the methods of ordinary 
historical inquiry. 

On the other hand, the picture is equally, and 
indeed much more, the picture of a people 
whose life is profoundly discontinuous with 
the life of the rest of mankind. This profound 
discontinuity comes to expression in the quite 
distinctive religious idea and experience of 
"the covenant." Covenant signifies a relation- 
ship of a personal and ethical kind which God, 
who has all peoples and all history in his grasp, 
has entered into with Israel, and with Israel 
alone, in order to fulfill his purpose in the 
world. God himself has taken the initiative in 
setting up this relationship, which, because it 
is set up with Israel only, puts that people, in 
respect of the forces which determine its history, 
in a position of radical discontinuity with the 
rest of the world. It is a people apart, the chosen 
people, marked out by God for signal honor 
and responsibility. By great acts of deliverance 

and disciplinary judgment, and through the 
mouths of prophets and teachers whom he in- 
spires to interpret those acts, God calls and con- 
tinually recalls the people of Israel into obedi- 
ence to and trust in himself, promising them, 
as they respond to the call, his blessing and 
guidance so that they may in turn be a blessing 
and a guide to men. This strange, deep notion 
of the covenant relationship thus focuses in 
itself four elements which taken together form 
the heart and kernel of Old Testament religion: 
the apprehension of the one God as (a) per- 
sonal, (b) actively working out a purpose in 
history, (c) taking the initiative in making him- 
self known to men, so that they can in some 
measure co-operate with and understand his 
activity in history, and (d) calling a particular 
community into a unique relationship with 
himself so that it may be his agent in the world. 
JB. Continuity -Discontinuity Between the Old 
and New Testaments. There is a second and 
even more deep-going continuity-discontinuity 
which the Bible exhibits to us: it comes into 
being, as it were, within the first. The covenant 
community of Israel, which God called out from 
and so made discontinuous with the rest of man- 
kind, is set before us as failing to respond fully 
to that call. In varying ways and degrees, with 
recurrent backslidings after partial and tem- 
porary recoveries, it goes counter to the divine 
purpose, so that if it serves the divine purpose 
at all it does so very imperfectly, and then 
not so much as a willing agent as an unwilling, 
and even unwitting, instrument. Nevertheless, 
the divine purpose of saving the world through 
the elect people of Israel, being divine, cannot 
really be frustrated. By a new initiative in the 
coming of Christ, God brings into being in the 
midst and out of the midst of the old covenant 
people a new covenant people, a new Israel, to 
be what the old Israel had been called, but had 
failed, to be (except in the prayers and hopes 
of a remnant of elect souls) : namely, the servant 
and medium of his redeeming purpose toward 
mankind to be "a chosen race, a royal priest- 
hood, a holy nation, God's own people," that 
they might "declare the wonderful deeds of him 
who called [them] out of darkness into his 
marvelous light" (I Pet. 2:9; cf. also Exod. 
19:5-6) . This new divine initiative and its 
decisive significance are emphasized in the 
sharpest possible way by the break in the Bible 
between the Old and New Testaments. "Testa- 
ment" means "covenant/ 1 so that the Old Tes- 
tament should in strictness be called the scrip- 
tures of (that is, the writings and records 
concerning) the old covenant, and the New 
Testament should be called the scriptures of 
(that is, the writings and records concerning) 
the new covenant. 



Here, it may be repeated, is a new and even 
more deep-going continuity-discontinuity. Let 
us develop each side of the antithesis in turn. 

First, the continuity: That the word "testa- 
ment" or "covenant" is used of both main 
sections of the Bible indicates the continuity of 
the one with the other. It indicates that the 
story runs on, that the Bible throughout is 
concerned with essentially the same community 
the covenant community, constituted as such 
by the redeeming purpose of God, conscious of 
itself as set apart in the midst of mankind, 
though otherwise continuous with it. This gives 
the Bible, despite the multiplicity and variety 
of its contents, and above all, despite the break 
between the Old and New Testaments, a singu- 
lar and indiscerptible unity. The New Testa^ 
ment writings do indeed set forth the church as 
the distinctively new Israel of God, the people 
of the new covenant, but if the 4 main emphasis is 
on the word "new," that is because the un- 
broken continuity with what has gone before, 
which is implicit in the words "Israel" and 
"covenant," is not felt to need any emphasis. 
Unostentatiously and without discussion, the 
writers assume themselves heir to the "common- 
wealth of Israel" and "the covenants of prom- 
ise" (Eph. 2:12) .* The church, the new Israel, 
is not a substitute for the old covenant com- 
munity, brought in, as it were, from elsewhere; 
rather it springs from the loins of the old com- 
munity. It is its true heir; it carries, so to speak, 
its heredity; it is the evidence not of its having 
ceased to be, but of its unbroken and unbreak- 
able persistence. It is all this because the divine 
purpose and call which laid hold of Israel in 
the beginning, and constituted it the covenant 
people for the salvation of mankind, still grasps 
it, only now under the form of the church. 3 In 
what then does this "newness" consist? 

This brings us to the second point, the dis- 
continuity: the "newness" of the new covenant 
community, according to the New Testament, 
is radical and manifests itself in the following 
main ways: 

(a) It manifests itself in the way in which 
the covenant community is established and 
maintained in its relationship to God. As the 
New Testament writers look back on the pre- 
vious history of the covenant people, they see a 
dense shadow lying across it the shadow of 
men's sinful disobedience to God and conse- 
quent alienation from him. They see, of course, 
other things as well: as we have said, they as- 

1 It is Important to note that among the promises was 
the promise of a new covenant with Israel, so that the 
very newness of the church constituted a significant ele- 
ment in its unity and continuity with what had gone 
before. See Jer. 31:31-32. 

a See C. H. Dodd, The Bible Today (Cambridge: 
University Press, 1946), ch. i. 

sume themselves heirs to the hopes and promises 
of what they recognize to be a unique and 
glorious past, a past which has prepared the 
way for the coming of the Savior. But the un- 
solved problem of sin stands out in somber 
relief, for it is because of sin that the covenant 
people has failed to be the effective servant of 
the divine purpose in the world. In the new 
covenant relationship this problem is solved, 
the shadow removed, not indeed by the mem- 
bers of the new community being made sinless, 
but by their being put as sinners into an en- 
tirely new relationship to God in respect of 
their sin. This is brought about by God's new 
action in Christ, God reconciles sinful men to 
himself, makes them "at one" with himself 
through Christ, and supremely through his 
death at Calvary; and the new covenant com- 
munity consists of men and women who are 
thus reconciled to him. But this is not all. The 
New Testament faith, as has already been said, 
is that Christ is the risen, living, and ever- 
present Lord of the new covenant community; 
as such he is, through the Holy Spirit, ever 
operative in the hearts and lives of its members. 
The new community lives and moves and has its 
being in Christ, its divine Savior and Lord, in 
a way that the old covenant community never 
lived and moved and had its being in the 
prophets through whom the divine word came 
to it. The word of God, formerly uttered by a 
person, has now become the living, saving per- 
son himself. (See p. 29 on the use of the phrase 
"the word of God" and on its application to 
Christ.) This is indeed a new sort of covenant, 
constituting a new covenant people. There is 
still a further point: while the new relation- 
ship to God is a community relationship, it is 
also a relationship of an intensely individual 
and personal kind between each member and 
God through the Savior. Repentance, forgive- 
ness, faith, growth in Christian character, all 
these spring out of the living encounter with 
God in Christ within the innermost places of 
each man's heart; nevertheless it must be re- 
iterated at once even as individual transac- 
tions with God they become possible only be- 
cause the word of the gospel meets the believer 
through the new covenant community and calls 
him to and establishes him in its fellowship. 
The New Testament is at one and the same 
time the most individualistic and the most com- 
munity-conscious book in the world, which is 
some evidence perhaps of the richness and 
adequacy of the truth it contains, (Most of this 
theme is contained in two key passages of scrip- 
ture: Jer. 31:31-34, where the new covenant 
relationship is promised and its nature defined; 
I Cor. 11:25 see also Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; 
Luke 22:20 where the establishment of the 


new covenant is associated through the Last 
Supper with the death of Christ and the for- 
giveness of sins.) 

(b) The newness manifests itself in the scope 
of the covenant community. It is no longer 
a community whose membership is defined in 
any sense whatever in terms of race or nation; 
it is now defined in terms only of a man's that 
is, any man's relationship to God through 
Christ. It is, therefore, in principle a universal 
society in which every social and national 
boundary or cleavage is broken through. It is 
perhaps difficult for those reared in the Chris- 
tian tradition to realize how radically new this 
universalism was. There are, to be sure, a num- 
ber of striking utterances in the Old Testament 
concerning the universal mission of Israel: she 
is called to be the agent of the divine purpose 
in history toward all mankind, and through her 
the nations of the earth will be brought to the 
true knowledge and worship of the Most High. 8 
But the Old Testament never succeeded in uni- 
versalizing the notion of the covenant commu- 
nity itself. That remained essentially bound up 
with Jewish national feeling, with the inevita- 
ble result since national feeling, especially 
under the stress of national misfortune, is one 
of the most powerful to which men are subject 
that the universalistic elements in the pro- 
phetic teaching were almost completely over- 
ridden.* That the church of the New Testa- 
ment broke away from this narrow nationalism, 
while at the same time defining itself in cove- 
nant terms and exulting in its continuity with 
the people of the old covenant, is a most re- 
markable thing, and is explicable only as the 
result of the impact of the transcendent per- 
sonality of Jesus Christ. 

(c) The newness manifests itself in the final- 
ity of the covenant community. Throughout the 
New Testament the conviction rules that the 
church is something final, conclusive, in the 
working out of God's purpose in the world 
through the covenant community. The old cove- 
nant was succeeded by the new covenant in 
Christ, but the latter cannot be succeeded by 
one still newer, and so itself in course of time 
become old it is "once for all." A full explica- 
tion of the finality of Christianity, such as would 
exclude the many possible misinterpretations of 

8 The relevant passages may be found conveniently 
brought together in H. H. Rowley, The Missionary 
Message of the Old Testament (London: The Carey 
Press, 1945). 

*See G. R. North, The Old Testament Interpretation 
of History (London: The Epworth Press, 1946), p. 178: 
"The Jews were unable to shake themselves entirely free 
from the principle of nationalism in religion. Even Jere- 
miah, for all his New Covenant oracle, did not succeed 
in doing that. He conceived of the future kingdom of 
God as somehow bound up with the restoration of His 
own people.'* 

it, is beyond the scope of this article; it is 
sufficient to point out three things: 

First, finality is necessarily involved in the 
New Testament view of the person and work of 
Christ. The categories applied to him cannot be 
used of one concerning whom the possibility 
can be even theoretically entertained that he 
might be superseded. 

Second, the finality is not a completed final- 
ity. This has the sound of self-contradiction, but 
it does no more than express the conviction 
which runs throughout the New Testament, 
that God's action in history through Christ is 
not yet a completed action. It has assuredly 
begun in what is a radically new initiative, but 
the consummation of it in the fully realized 
kingdom of God is yet to be, "according to his 
purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan 
for the fullness of time, to unite all things in 
him, things in heaven and things on earth" 
(Eph. 1:9-10). 

Third, the finality lies in the fact that the 
new covenant fulfills the old covenant. It is 
important in this context to give the notion of 
fulfillment its proper meaning. It might be 
taken to mean simply that under the old cove- 
nant the Jews developed certain religious long- 
ings and aspirations which were never fully 
satisfied, but which under the new covenant 
were fully satisfied. Or it might be taken to 
mean that in course of time certain religious 
and theological problems or tensions emerged 
in the old covenant period which were not then 
resolved, but which were later resolved by the 
coming of Christ. Both these thoughts are valid 
and important aspects of the full notion of 
fulfillment as applied to the work of Christ (see 
p. 27) . But they do not express the distinctive 
New Testament idea of Christ as fulfillment 
which is here in mind. It might be said that 
taken by themselves they are too anthropocen- 
tric. The primary emphasis of the New Testa- 
ment is much more theocentric: that is to say, 
the emphasis is not so much on Christ as meet- 
ing the unsatisfied aspirations, or resolving the 
outstanding problems, of religious men, as on 
Christ fulfilling God's purpose. He is God's ful- 
fillment before he is man's. God had planned 
and intended from the beginning to come in 
Christ; his dealings with the old covenant peo- 
ple from the call of Abraham onward were in 
pursuit of that plan and intention; the plan and 
intention were fulfilled when "in the fullness of 
time" he did in fact come in Christ. In all his 
dealings with the covenant people God, so to 
say, had Christ in mind. Christ came and died 
and rose again "according to the definite plan 
and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) . "He 
was destined before the foundation of the world 
but was made manifest at the end of the times" 



(I Pet. 1:20) . In other words, there comes to ex- 
pression in the New Testament idea of Christ 
as fulfillment the characteristic biblical thought 
of God as purposively active in history, and 
above all in the history of the covenant people. 
It is this that lies behind the frequent applica- 
tion by the New Testament writers to Christ's 
advent and life and death of such phrases as 
"according to the scriptures" or "spoken of by 
the prophets" or "according to the promises " 
There is no hint in such phrases, it is super- 
fluous to say, of a fatalistic or mechanical neces- 
sity. Nor is there any suggestion that the Old 
Testament writings thus referred to resulted 
from some occult gift of clairvoyance in those 
who wrote them. The controlling thought in 
such phrases is, once again, the thought of God 
actively at work in history, and more particu- 
larly of his making his mind and purpose 
known, in some way and in some degree, to 
prophetic souls. This making known is indeed 
part of the working out of his purpose, for the 
work and witness of the prophets are part and 
parcel of the historic process itself. The inter- 
pretation of events that they proclaim in the 
name of God is itself a creative event. The 
phrase "in some way and in some degree" has 
been used because the New Testament writers 
offer no information as to how or to what extent 
the divine purpose was made known; this is 
because their emphasis is primarily on the fact 
of the divine activity in the history of the cove- 
nant people and in the witness of the prophets, 
preparing the way for Christ, and only sec- 
ondarily on the human agents whom he chose to 
speak to and to use "at sundry times and in 
divers manners" (Heb. 1:1). 

C. Continuity -Discontinuity in the Person of 
Christ. What, then, is the source and ground 
of this radical newness in the covenant relation- 
ship which constitutes the church the new Israel 
of God? The answer which the New Testament 
gives to this question is implicit in what has 
just been said: the newness derives from the 
radical, the incommensurable, newness of Jesus 
Christ. The New Testament unequivocally 
teaches that to repeat the words used at the 
beginning of this article God himself came, 
and comes, in Jesus Christ in a saving self- 
giving and self-disclosure which are unique, 
final, adequate, and indispensable. The point, 
however, which should be emphasized here is 
that there is in the New Testament the clearest 
testimony to both the continuity and the dis- 
continuity, both the "in and through" aspect 
and the "into" aspect, of the person of Christ. 
It is here that the continuity-discontinuity 
theme of the Bible reaches its profoundest 
depth, and at the same time its central point 

that which holds together and gives a unitary 
meaning to the whole biblical history. 

On the one hand, Jesus Christ is emphatically 
and unreservedly set forth as a fully human and 
historic individual. He is a Jew, his whole being 
and life rooted in, fashioned, and conditioned 
by the history and tradition, the distinctive reli- 
gious, moral, cultural character of the Jewish 
people, including in this, above all, its con- 
sciousness of being called of God to a special 
place in his purpose. And even as the life of the 
Jewish community was conditioned by the wider 
secular events and circumstances of the time, 
particularly those connected with the imperial 
activities of Rome, so also was his life. Much of 
his teaching can only be fully comprehended 
when it is taken in the context of the Roman 
occupying power and of the relation of the 
Jews to it; his death is brought about by the 
co-operation of the Jewish and Roman authori- 
ties. There is a wealth of meaning in the fact 
that Luke dates the beginning of the active 
ministry of Jesus with the words "in the fif- 
teenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and 
Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother 
Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of 
Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of 
Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high 
priests" (Luke 3:1-2). 

On the other hand, with equal emphasis Jesus 
Christ is set forth as being not merely historic 
and human: his person and work cannot be 
comprehended in their essential nature simply 
in terms of the history of the old covenant peo- 
ple and of the interplay of this with the wider 
history of mankind. He is not even set forth as 
the last and greatest of the great prophets with 
whom had been so closely bound up, in the 
past, God's dealings with Israel. On the con- 
trary, he is presented throughout as one who, by 
virtue of his unique and mysterious office as the 
Messiah, is the redeeming God himself in action 
to set up his kingdom, in a way for which there 
is, and in the nature of the case can be, no 
parallel. In accordance with this he is made the 
object of religious devotion, of utter faith and 
obedience, such as the writers would normally 
direct only to God himself. 

It is hardly necessary to say that the New 
Testament makes no attempt to work out this 
paradoxical faith concerning the Jewish and 
human "continuity" and the divine "disconti- 
nuity" of Christ into a theoretical doctrine of 
his person; the deep, underlying theological 
problems are not raised, for example, how this 
religious devotion to Christ and a strict mono- 
theism are to be reconciled. There is little in 
the New Testament to suggest the christological 
doctrines which were later wrought out in the 



discussions of the Greek fathers and are en- 
shrined in the Nicene and Chalcedonian formu- 
las. Indeed, it is perhaps a trifle misleading to 
describe the New Testament belief concerning 
Christ as a doctrine of the Incarnation, unless 
the word "Incarnation" is carefully interpreted 
to mean that Christ in his divine-earthly life 
was veritably a man in the wholeness of a man's 
being as an embodied and historic person 
which was the sense in which the word was 
used at the beginning of this article and the 
sense which the phrase "became flesh'* bears in 
the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel (John 
1:13). Apart from such careful use, the word 
"Incarnation" is perhaps a little apt, for ety- 
mological reasons, to suggest the underlying 
dualism of Greek thought, with its readiness to 
think of the Incarnation as the ingress of a 
divine principle into a mortal envelope of flesh 
essentially alien to it. Nothing could be farther 
from the thought of the New Testament 
than that. We could keep much nearer to the 
New Testament thought if we had an abstract 
noun in English corresponding to the Greek 
word vccv0pobTrr|cnq, or if we could coin a word 
and speak of the divine "inhumanization" 
or even "inhistorization," rather than of the 

The purpose of the first main section of this 
article should be now evident: to show that the 
central Christian affirmation of the Incarnation, 
with its insistence that the divine action in 
Christ is both "in and through" and "into" 
history, both continuous and discontinuous with 
history, is intimately and indissolubly bound up 
with the whole distinctive content and structure 
of the Bible. Normal or typical Christianity is 
thus seen to be profoundly and organically one 
with what it has always asserted to be in- some 
sense its standard and norm. By the same argu- 
ment, the assertion made at the beginning, that 
the normative relation of the Bible to the faith 
and life of the church is of the intrinsic or 
organic kind, is illustrated and reaffirmed. The 
faith and life of the church as centered in God's 
unique action in Christ can in fact no more be 
torn apart from the Bible and remain their dis- 
tinctive selves than a plant can be torn from the 
soil and remain a living plant. 

The close connection between the central 
and distinctive Christian affirmation concerning 
Christ and the view taken of the Scriptures can 
be illustrated from the early history of the 
church. Thus it is significant that Marcion, who 
had strongly Docetist leanings (i.e., emphasized 
the "into" aspect of the divine action in Christ 
at the expense of the "in and through" aspect, 
the divine at the expense of the human), also 
rejected the Old Testament. On the other hand, 
the adoptionists (those who emphasized the 

"in and through" aspect at the expense of the 
"into," the human at the expense of the divine) 
find their first representatives among the Ebio- 
nites, who had no awareness of the essential 
newness of the Christian revelation which ulti- 
mately found expression in the idea *and the 
compilation of a New Testament. The mission 
of Jesus was held to be merely to purify and 
revive the old revelation. Thus Paul of Samo- 
sata was acutely characterized by some of the 
fathers as "neo-Jewish" and "Ebionitic." 

Before proceeding, it fnay be worth while, in 
order to avoid misunderstanding, to emphasize 
that in setting forth the biblical conception of 
the church as the new Israel, the new covenant 
people, we have inevitably thought of the 
church in terms of its ideal as this is defined by 
God's intention and purpose toward it and 
toward mankind through Christ. That is to say, 
we have inevitably thought in terms of the true 
church, which does not necessarily coincide ex- 
actly with this or that institution in history 
which has in fact called itself a church or the 
church. There are difficult problems here with 
which every Christian thinker is familiar, but 
the line of thought which has been pursued is 
not really affected by them. We must believe 
that somewhere within the empirical and insti- 
tutional churches the true church of God is 
always in being; and the thesis of this article is 
that its essential and distinctive nature, purpose, 
and message, and particularly the relation of 
these to its own acknowledged norm in the 
Bible, can be rightly comprehended only on the 
basis of what has already been said above, and 
along the lines of thought which we now go on 
to pursue. 

111. The Normative Function of the Bible 
Within the Church 

This central section of the inquiry can be 
begun with the statement made in connection 
with the phrase "and comes," namely, that the 
creative and constitutive principle of the church 
is the living Christ himself, who in all things 
rules and directs its faith and life through the 
-Holy Spirit (see p, 7) . 

This statement clearly involves that Christ 
is the final and absolute authority for the faith 
and life of the church, and therefore for the 
faith and life of every individual member. To 
say this does not in any way depart from the 
truth that God is the sole absolute authority 
for men, but rather expresses it in its specifically 
Christian form; for, as we have seen, it is pre- 
cisely the 'distinctive Christian affirmation that 
Christ is the personal self-manifestation of God 
to men. But we have also accepted as the datura 
of this inquiry that the Bible is in some sfcnse 
the supreme standard and norm. Obviously our 



task is to relate these two statements, which, in 
their apparent assertion of two finalities, seem 
at first sight to be contrary. As a matter of fact, 
as will be seen, it is only by relating them to 
one another that we can rightly understand in 
what sense the Bible is the supreme standard 
and norm, and on what its authority rests. But 
before going on to this, it is necessary to insist 
on the importance of being once and for all 
clear that whatever place may be assigned to the 
Bible as standard and norm, the truth that 
Christ, the living Christ speaking through the 
Holy Spirit, is the supreme authority must not 
be qualified in any way whatsoever. Only by 
holding firmly to this truth can the essential 
and unique quality of the Christian faith and 
life be preserved. It is a faith and life centered 
in the person of Christ, apprehended as God 
himself personally and livingly encountering us 
and dealing with us. It is not centered in a 
book, as in Islam; or in a code of behavior, as in 
Confucianism; or in a system of philosophical 
or theological truth, as in Vedantic Hinduism; 
or in a rigidly authoritarian institution such as 
the Christian church in its Roman form has in 
large measure become. It is, of course, unhap- 
pily true that Christianity has often been set 
forth in a way that moves far too much in the 
direction of one or other of these possibilities. 
Thus it has been presented in a way to give 
the impression that it is essentially a religion of 
a book (as when unquestioning acceptance of 
the inerrancy of the Bible has been made de 
fide) ; 5 or that it is merely a matter of living 
according to the ethical teaching of the New 
Testament, particularly of the Sermon on the 
Mount, other distinctive New Testament be- 
liefs being relatively unimportant (as in some 
of the shallower forms of what is called liberal 
modernism) ; or that it is a matter of accepting 
an elaborate scheme of doctrines (as in certain 
forms of "scholastic" Protestantism) ,* or, in the 
way already indicated, of submitting to an 
authoritarian institution (as in Roman Cathol- 
icism) . One may venture to think, however, 
that the distinctive Christian relationship of 
personal trust in and obedience to the living 
Christ has usually lain within these faulty 
presentations and aberrations, and given them, 
in spite of themselves, a characteristically Chris- 
tian vitality and power. 

Let us turn now to the problem of the rela- 
tion of the authority of the Bible to the author- 
ity of Christ. The position to be put forth is that 
we can only understand and justify the su- 
premely normative status of the Bible within 
the church's life, while at the same time not 
qualifying in any way Christ's supreme author- 

6 Cf. William Chillingworth's famous dictum, "The 
Bible alone is the religion of Protestants." 

ity, by doing two things. First, we must show 
that the biblical writings are indispensable to 
the present, living relationship of Christ to the 
church the new covenant community and its 
members: in other words, we must show that 
the normative relation of the Bible to the 
church is an essential part of the normative 
relation of the living Christ to it. The special 
problem here is to see how printed documents 
from the past can enter into a present, living, 
personal relationship, particularly in view of 
the fact that Christ himself left no written rec- 
ords. Second, we must show why nothing else 
but the Bible thus indispensably participates 
in the authority of the living Christ. The special 
problem here is to see why later writings, some 
of them on the highest level of inspiration, 
which have been produced as part of the on- 
going life of the church throughout the ages, 
should not enter as indispensably into the liv- 
ing authority of Christ as those which are in 
the New Testament. The Roman Church main- 
tains that they do, at least in so far as they help 
to form that ecclesiastical tradition which it ex- 
pressly puts on a level with scripture as con- 
stituting, with the latter, the normative factors 
governing the authoritative and final pro- 
nouncements of the Papacy. 6 If we reject this 
view, as the Protestant church has always rightly 
done, we must be clear why we do so, why we 
give only the biblical writings so unique a place. 
The two points will be discussed in turn. 

A. The Bible as Essential to the Normative 
Relationship of the Living Christ to the Church. 
We can understand the way in which the 
Bible, as a collection of documents and records 
from the past, enters indispensably into the 
present lordship of the living Christ only in 
the light of our general understanding of why 
a historic incarnation was necessary at all to 
God's saving work for men. In other words, 
the question is fundamentally a theological one, 
involving our whole doctrine of salvation, which 
in turn involves the doctrine of God, of man, of 
sin in short, of the whole organism of Chris- 
tian truth. The close connection between our 
view of the Bible and our view of salvation can 
be seen by reflecting that to assert the necessity 
for a historic incarnation is not the same thing 
as to assert the necessity for trustworthy records 

6 See the decree concerning the canonical Scriptures in 
"The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent" in 
Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper 
& Bros., 1877), II, 79. In practice, as has often been 
remarked, the Roman Church sets tradition above scrip- 
ture as the authoritative source of truth, for scripture 
is acknowledged to require interpretation and exposition, 
whereas the teaching of the church concerning their 
interpretation and exposition is infallible and irreform- 
able (that is, never to be examined in the light of 
Scripture itself), See "Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican 
Council," 1870, ibid., II, 271. 



concerning it. One might hold a doctrine of 
salvation which established or presupposed the 
necessity for a historic incarnation, but which 
made superfluous a trustworthy record of the 
events associated with it: all that would be re- 
quired on such a view would be credible witness 
of the bare fact that such incarnation had taken 
place. There have been doctrines of Christ's 
saving work of this type. Thus the view which 
finds expression in the writings of some of the 
Greek fathers, that the essence of Christ's saving 
work was that he introduced the divine, incor- 
ruptible life into the corrupt and perishing 
body of humanity, and that our benefiting from 
that work takes place through participation in 
the sacraments, while obviously asserting the 
necessity of the Incarnation, leaves no indispen- 
sable place for a collection of records like the 
Bible. Similarly, certain types of substitutionary 
views of Christ's saving work (particularly when 
the view is elaborated into a scheme of soteri- 
ological doctrine which every man must believe 
in order to be saved) do not seem indispen- 
sably to involve the sort of records we have in 
the Bible. The clearest example is once again 
afforded by the Roman Church, which makes 
the saving process rest essentially on a man's 
committing himself to the whole hierarchical 
and dogmatic system of the church in an act 
of fides implicit^ or, as Luther dubbed it, "blind 
faith." In accordance with this, the Roman 
Church has not only never given the biblical 
records an indispensable place in its under- 
standing of the work of Christ, but has also on 
the whole discouraged its lay members from 
acquiring knowledge of them. 

If, however, we so understand God's saving 
work through Christ that it requires as an indis- 
pensable element in it the encounter, continu- 
ally re-enacted, with the concrete individuality 
of the historic Savior, then we can see at once 
why the biblical documents become an indis- 
pensable factor in Christ's living relationship to 
the church. For without the Bible such en- 
counter could not take place. It is obviously not 
possible fully to elaborate in this article such 
an account of the saving work of Christ; all that 
is possible, and indeed all that is necessary for 
our purpose, is to summarize what has been set 
forth elsewhere. 7 

The main point is what may be called the 
"radical personalism" of the Christian message, 
a personalism which is itself in profoundest 
harmony with the biblical revelation. According 
to this radical personalism, the essential nature 
of man consists in the fact that God has made 
him a finite person in order that he may enjoy 
personal fellowship with God and with other 

T Herbert H. Farmer, God and Men (New York and 
Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1947), chs. iii-iv. 

finite persons. It is this purpose of God which 
has brought the process of what we call "his- 
tory" into being, for history is but another name 
for the sphere in which finite persons can live 
freely as persons, the sphere, that is to say, in 
which their decisions and deeds can have real 
significance either as co-operative with or as 
opposed to God's purpose for them and through 
them. Sin, on account of which God's saving 
action in Christ is made necessary, has to do with 
this profound relationship to God which lies at 
the root of man's whole distinctive nature as a 
personal being. By the word "sin" we indicate 
the fact that men have rejected and do reject 
God's claim upon them for their obedience and 
trust, and the claim of their fellows upon them 
for their love, this latter claim being itself part 
of God's claim. Men are able to make this rejec- 
tion because in such a personal world there is 
real freedom; without such freedom to reject 
claims it would not be a personal world. Be- 
cause sin has thus to do with the ultimate core 
and basis of man's distinctively personal life, 
its effects upon the personality are disastrous 
and inevitable. The worst and most disabling 
effect is blindness. Men become increasingly 
unable to see the truth concerning themselves, 
to discern the true meaning and direction of 
their life, and of history generally; they become 
increasingly unable to know what God's will for 
them and claim upon them are, and indeed to 
know that there is a personal God at all, still 
less one who may be joyfully obeyed and 
trusted. This is the worst and most disabling 
effect of sin because it is precisely the preroga- 
tive of a personal being to walk in freedom 
according to the light of truth within his own 
soul. It follows from this that only as the blind- 
ness is being continuously healed, only as a man 
is brought again and again to the light and kept 
in the light, can the evil of his sin-corrupted 
existence even begin to be set right. And by the 
same argument a man cannot cure his own 
blindness, for to cure it he would first require 
the capacity to see the truth about God and 
about himself which his blindness now denies 
him. If God does not act in a way that is 
effectively revealing, effectively healing of his 
blindness, there is no hope. 

All this indicates the conditions which the 
divine saving action in relation to sin, if it was 
to be effective, had to fulfill. It had to be action 
which lays bare to men the real nature of the 
personal that is, the historical world, in such 
a way that their blindness is overcome. Yet this 
must not be in a way that coerces and overrides 
their minds, for if it did that it would be false 
to the real nature of the personal world, and 
so far from unveiling it, would obscure it. It 
must be effective, yet not overriding not over- 



tiding, precisely in order to be a truly effective 
tvay of dealing with men as persons. 

It is difficult, to say the least, to see how a 
saving disclosure of the truth of the kind just 
indicated could take any form other than that 
which Christianity affirms it did in fact take in 
Christ, the form, that is, of a full and concrete 
embodiment in a human personal life, lived in 
the midst of, and confronting men in the midst 
of, those very events and relationships which 
constitute their historical existence as persons. 
Only thus could it deal with the corruption and 
darkness which sin causes, and only thus could 
it remain true to the personal world by con- 
tinuously evoking in men a new inward percep- 
tion and response. In particular, it was most 
necessary that it should thus confront us in the 
midst of and in closest relationship with human 
existence as corrupted and darkened and em- 
bittered by sin, for it is in the midst of human 
existence as thus corrupted and darkened and 
embittered that the saved man has to live the 
new life into which he is called, and for which 
he is empowered by God. Certainly the mere 
announcement of general truths or doctrines 
concerning the nature of God and his purpose 
for men, or concerning sin, could not effect 
these things, even if uttered with power and 
eloquence by some prophetic personality. 

To suppose that it could to suppose that 
it could be anything more than a merely 
ameliorative factor would be to show a very 
inadequate grasp both of the nature of per- 
sonality and of the effects of sin upon it. 
General truths cannot get right inside men, 
so to speak, and continue to get right inside 
them, in their sinful state and situation chal- 
lenging the will, stirring the deep springs of 
feeling, breaking up the obstinate resistances of 
pride and self-justification; general truths can- 
not pierce the hard crusts of egotism, with its 
fears and hates and insincerities, and when the 
crust re-forms, pierce it again, letting in the 
light and again letting in the light, bringing 
men again and again to a true and deep peni- 
tence, making credible a divine pardon which 
will neither indulge nor yet be turned aside by 
their sinfulness. Only truth in unclouded per- 
sonal embodiment and action, encountering 
and challenging men in the actual historical 
situations which are the real stuff of their per- 
sonal existence, can work real redemption. 

It is hardly necessary to point out that what 
has just been said is not offered as a full state- 
ment of the doctrine of our redemption by 
Christ. It is meant only to set forth a basic 
general principle which must underlie all our 
understanding of Christ's saving and sanctifying 
work, and which is especially relevant to the 
problem under discussion. The point is that 


if this general principle is valid, it makes clear 
why an encounter, continually renewed, with 
the concrete individuality of the historic Christ 
is an indispensable factor in his present rela- 
tionship to the church and to its individual 
members. Furthermore, it makes clear why a 
historical record is indispensable also, for with- 
out a historical record such an encounter could 
not take place. 

We may reach the same truth from a different 
angle. We have spoken of the risen and living 
Christ directing the faith and life of the church 
and of its members through the Holy Spirit. 
The significance of this statement, however, 
both theologically and for the Christian life, 
depends on the content we give to the term 
Christ: it depends on whether we can give it a 
content which differentiates it significantly from 
the meaning which we attach to the term Holy 
Spirit. If we mean by the living Christ merely 
the Spirit of God conceived as working for the 
realization of certain values vaguely called 
Christian, or even more vaguely called spiritual, 
then the proposition that Christ rules through 
the Holy Spirit becomes the meaningless tautol- 
ogy that the Spirit rules through the Spirit. 
Futhermore, it becomes all too easy, as experi- 
ence shows, for the religious life to run out into 
a sentimental nebulosity, lacking all positive 
direction and drive, or else, if it achieves posi- 
tive direction, to do so by becoming an un- 
checked individualism for whose merely private 
"hunches" the authority of the Spirit's leading 
is claimed. But if we mean by Christ as risen 
and living the same Christ as he who meets us 
in the pages of the Gospels, with all the sharp 
personal characterization and definition of con- 
crete historic existence, then to say that Christ 
rules through the Holy Spirit is to say some- 
thing highly significant. For on the one hand, 
the Spirit takes on the character of Christ, and 
so ceases to be merely a vague divine principle 
dimly conceived as indwelling human nature 
and lending sanction to any strong impulsion 
from the subconscious regions of the personal- 
ity; and on the other hand, the rule of Christ 
becomes a truly personal rule operating through 
the quickened insight of the believer in relation 
to his personal situation, and not through a 
merely slavish imitation of or legalistic obedi- 
ence to the deeds and words of Christ as re- 
corded in the Gospels. The Spirit takes of the 
things of Christ and shows them to us, and the 
fruits of the Spirit are the virtues of Christ. But 
this means that there has to be a Christ a his- 
toric Christ for the Spirit to show us; and that 
in turn means that there has to be a historical 

The argument so far might seem only to 
demonstrate the indispensability of the Gospels 


to Christ's saving and ruling presence in the 
church. But in view of all that has been main- 
tained throughout this article concerning the 
divine action in Christ, it is clear that the 
gospel records of the life of the Redeemer could 
not possibly suffice by themselves to present us 
with the whole content and full import of that 
action. To suppose that they could would be to 
fail to give proper weight to that "in and 
through" or "continuity" aspect of the divine 
action which is essential to a truly historic 
incarnation and revelation. It would also be to 
display ignorance of the gospel records them- 
selves, for it does not require much study of 
the Gospels to see that they cannot be under- 
stood apart from what went before in the his- 
tory of the old covenant people, as set before 
us in the Old Testament, and apart from what 
came after in the coming into existence of the 
new covenant community, as set before us in 
the documents of the New Testament other 
than the Gospels. Once we grant the necessity 
of the gospel records to God's dealings with us 
through Christ, we grant in principle the neces- 
sity of more than just those records; we grant 
the necessity of a whole Bible. At the moment 
I say no more than "a" whole Bible, for the 
question of the limits of the canon of scripture 
is yet to be discussed. But, with that reserva- 
tion, Luther's dictum stands, "the Bible is the 
manger in which Christ is laid," 

There is, however, a latent assumption in 
the position which has been laid down which 
raises serious difficulties, and which therefore 
we must examine with some care, The assump- 
tion is that the Gospels are in fact such records 
that when we read them we can be sure that we 
are encountering the actual historic person of 
whom they claim to give an account. There was 
a time when this was not felt to be an assump- 
tion, for most Christians accepted without any 
question the doctrine of the inerrancy of the 
scripture writings. It was believed that God 
had so operated on the minds of the sacred 
writers that they did not write down anything 
which was not strictly accurate in every par- 
ticular. Whatever was set down in the Gospels 
actually happened as therein set down. This is 
no longer a tenable view. It is untenable for 
two reasons. 

The first has to do, once again, with the 
central Christian assertion of the Incarnation. 
A completely inerrant record could have been 
produced only if God had suspended the normal 
processes of memory and composition in the 
rninds of the writers, and used the latter not as 
co-operating human persons, but as passive 
instruments like a pen. But to suppose that 
such a diminution of the full humanity of the 
evangelists was necessary to the working out of 

God's saving purpose in Christ is to deny the 
full historic humanity of the Savior himself: it 
is to deny the "in and through" aspect of God's 
action, and so is a partial denial of the Incar- 
nation. For to assert the full humanity of 
Christ is to assert the full humanity of all the 
conditions affecting human life under which 
and in the midst of which he lived and died, 
under which he effected, and effects, his saving 
work. Among such conditions must be included 
the normal mental processes, both of those who 
kept company with him and whose memory 
made the writing of the Gospels possible, and 
of those who actually wrote the Gospels. This 
is not to deny that God gave these men guid- 
ance and inspiration in their work; it is merely 
to assert that the guidance and inspiration were 
given without impairing their full humanity as 
persons, and without setting up supernatural 
infallibilities in the midst of mankind a truth 
far more honoring to the wisdom and patience 
of God than a statement like that of the 
Lutheran theologian Quenstedt to the effect 

there is in Canonical Scripture no untruth, no 
falsity, no error, not even in the smallest particular, 
either in deed or word; but all and everything con- 
tained in it is of the highest possible truth, whether 
it be a matter of Dogma, Morals, History, Chronol- 
ogy, Topography, or Nomenclature. And no igno- 
rance, no lack of thought, no forgetfulness, nor 
lapse of memory, either can or ought to be attrib- 
uted to the amanuenses of the Holy Spiiit in their 
recording of the sacred text. 8 

The second reason has to do with the evi- 
dence afforded by the Gospels themselves, and 
calls for fuller treatment. Scholarly research into 
the Gospels has convincingly shown that they 
cannot be accepted in detail as they stand. The 
evidence is clear that they contain inaccuracies, 
inconsistencies, interpolations, omissions, over- 
statements, and so forth in short, precisely the 
sort of thing that normal mental processes 
produce. Moreover, it has become clear that the 
Gospels were written from the angle of an over- 
mastering religious faith in Christ as the Savior 
sent from God; indeed, they were intended to 
convey that faith, and they were not composed 
as biographies in the modern sense. This im- 
mediately raises the question whether we must 
not allow for the possibility that this faith 
has colored and distorted the historical facts 
which the Gospels purport to describe. Where 
facts and interpretations of facts by religious 
faith are so inextricably bound up together, 

s Quoted by H. F. D. Sparks, The Old Testament in 
the Christian Church (London: Student Christian Move- 
ment Press, 1944), p. 18. 



how can we have any assurance concerning the 

Before taking up these two sources of doubt, 
it will be worth while to digress for a moment 
to insist that the work of critical scholarship on 
the Gospels to which reference has just been 
made has no necessary connection with a cer- 
tain view which has been characteristic of some 
schools of liberal thought. This is the view 
which rejects forthwith some elements in the 
Gospels (particularly the miraculous elements) 
on the basis of the alleged inescapable require- 
ments of sound philosophy and sound science. 
It is not necessary to discuss these alleged ines- 
capable requirements here; it is enough to state 
that not many competent authorities in this 
sphere of philosophical and theological thought 
would now find them anything like so inescap- 
able as they have been asserted by some to be. 
Rather, it has come to be recognized that the 
rejection of the miraculous elements in the 
Gospels on this particular basis was a much too 
hasty surrender of the biblical and Christian 
outlook to what has proved to be in large 
measure merely a prevailing fashion of 
thought. 9 Nevertheless, to admit, as we must, 
the general possibility and the historical actual- 
ity of the "mighty works" of Jesus does not 
commit us to the acceptance of every particular 
in the gospel account of them. There may be 
other reasons as in some cases there certainly 
are for rejection, or at least hesitation; reasons 
which arise out of that close and reverent study 
of the documents themselves which is demanded 
from us by the Christian faith in God's saving 
action "in and through" history. For as T. W. 
Manson has well said, this faith means "that 
history takes on a new significance, that the out- 
standing events in which the voice of God has 
been heard, or his hand discerned, must be 
studied with the same passion for accuracy that 
the scientist gives to a chemical analysis" 10 
though, it may be well to add, not by the same 
methods or on the same presuppositions. In 
biblical study we are now in a "postliberal" 
period, but we can never pass into a "postcrit- 
ical" one, for the obligation to use every re- 
source of scholarship upon our documents in 
order to know, so far as we are able, what 
really did happen, springs, it must be repeated, 
from the nature of the gospel'itself as a gospel 
of God's action in history. 11 

Let us return now to the two causes of doubt 

9 See below, p. 26. For a general discussion of miracles 
in relation to science, see Herbert H. Farmer, The 
World and God (New York: Harper & Bros., 1935). 

10 "The Failure of Liberalism to Interpret the Bible as 
the Word of God/' in The Interpretation of the Bible, 
ed. C. W. Dugmore (London: Society for Promoting 
Christian Knowledge, 1944), p. 104. 

" See Dodd, The Bible Today, p. 26. 

above mentioned concerning the capacity of 
the Gospels to confront us with the historic 
person of Jesus. 

1. The Trustworthiness of the Gospel Rec- 
ords. With regard to the first cause of doubt 
it can be said that the fact that critical scholar- 
ship lays bare in the Gospels as they stand a 
number of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and so 
forth, is not able by itself to support the con- 
clusion suggested, namely, that we cannot arrive 
at assured knowledge of the historical facts. It 
does not do more than define the task with 
which reverent critical scholarship is confronted, 
a hard enough task, to be sure, and one which 
requires the full and responsible use of all the 
resources available, but not a task which is 
foredoomed to failure. On the contrary, if we 
share the Christian faith about Christ, we are 
entitled to believe that since it is a task which 
God has laid upon us through the inevitable 
developments of scholarship, it is destined to 
succeed. There is no reason to think that the 
Holy Spirit does not take the things of Christ 
and show them to scholars as much as to other 
believers. 12 In any case, the question of success 
or failure must not be prejudged: it must be 
decided by the outcome of the enterprise itself. 
At this point, however, we are met by the 
allegation made by some that the outcome is 
already clear enough, that so soon as we sur- 
render belief in the absolute trustworthiness of 
the gospel records, and begin to try, by methods 
of critical research, to establish what "really 
happened/' we find ourselves lost in a quagmire 
of conflicting suggestions and theories. Every 
critical scholar, it is said, creates his own pic- 
ture of Jesus and of the events of his life, select- 
ing his material according to his own fancy, 
accepting this, rejecting that, explaining away 
something else, as his own sense of "what must 
have happened" may dictate. The real Jesus 
vanishes behind a cloud of conflicting theories 
and suppositions. The answer to this allegation 
is simply that it is not true, or in so far as it is 
true, it is true with the crucial qualification 
that it is so in the main only of those pictures 
of Jesus set forth by unbelieving and frequently 
not very well-equipped critics. Those who for 
one reason or another desire to retain the old 
view of the literal inerrancy and absolute trust- 
worthiness of the records are always inclined to 
exaggerate the extent to which the modern 
critical study of the Gospels undertaken by 
Christian scholars has issued only in the multi- 
plication of perplexities. In some ways the 
exact reverse is true. A fuller, more concrete, 
more consistent, and historically more credible 

" See below, p. 18, about the value for the Christian 
life of the questions raised by modern research into the 



portrait of Jesus than has been possible hith- 
erto is now available to us, mainly as the result 
of the researches of modern scholars. To be sure, 
there is always a certain fluidity in the picture: 
it changes as this or that line of inquiry is 
pursued, this or that hypothesis is put forward, 
discussed, tested, modified, partially rejected, 
partially accepted and incorporated in the pic- 
ture which is being formed; nevertheless, it 
remains substantially and recognizably the pic- 
ture o the same transcendent Person. The proc- 
ess might be compared to the changes which 
pass over a landscape as the clouds float across 
the sky; the light falls first here, then there, 
partially obscuring, partially revealing, yet al- 
ways disclosing the same landscape and its love- 
liness. In the oft-quoted words of Browning: 

That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows, 

Or decomposes but to recompose, 

Become my universe that feels and knows. 18 

It may indeed be maintained, as it was years 
ago by Wilhelm Herrmann, that in so far as 
historical research raises questions as to what 
exactly happened in the earthly life of Jesus 
Christ, it does a real service to the Christian 
faith. It serves to shake the Christian again and 
again out of what Herrmann calls "the lazy 
acquiescence of the natural man," and to guard 
him against being arrested in some supposedly 
final resting place in his knowledge of God 
through Christ. Herrmann writes: 

Historical work on the New Testament . . . 
destroys certain false props of faith, and that is a 
great gain. The Christian who imagines that the 
reliability of the records as historical documents 
gives certainty to his faith., is duly startled from 
his false repose by the work of the historian, which 
ought to make it clear to such a man that the 
possession of Christianity cannot be obtained so 
cheaply as lie thinks. 1 * 

Furthermore, the fact that historical research is 
always raising questions about Jesus Christ con- 

13 "Epilogue: Dramatis Personae"; cf C. H. Dodd, 
History and the Gospel (New York: Charles Scribner's 
Sons, 1938), ch. iii. Having discussed the various groups 
of material, as reconstructed by form criticism, which 
have gone to the making of the Gospels, Dodd concludes: 
"They do set Jesus before us as a clear-cut Figure in 
word and action. And although the points of view differ, 
we cannot avoid the impression that it is the same picture 
that we are seeing from them all" (p. 92). Again: "In 
the fourth decade of the first century the Christian 
Church grew up around a central tradition, which, how- 
ever it is expressed in preaching, in story, in teaching 
and in liturgical practice yields a coherent picture of 
Jesus Christ, what He was, what He stood for, what He 
said, did and suffered" (p. 110). 

1A The Communion of the Christian -with God, tr. 
J. Sandys Stanton (2nd ed.; London: Williams & Norgate, 
1906), pp. 76-77. 


tinually compels the church and the individual 
believer to explore afresh the significance of 
Jesus Christ, continually compels us to ask our- 
selves whether we are really grasping "what He 
was, what He stood for, what He said, did and 
suffered/' whether we are really entering into 
the riches which are offered us in him. A good 
example of this kind of service is the way in 
which many at the beginning of the twentieth 
century, who were inclined to settle down too 
easily in the liberal view of Jesus as a supreme 
teacher and exemplar of the fatherhood of God 
and the brotherhood of man and as such taking 
his place in the continuous upward "progress" 
of mankind to better things, were shaken out 
of that position by the work of scholars such as 
Johannes Weiss, Albert Schweitzer, and Alfred 
Loisy, who compelled attention to the dominant 
place of eschatological belief in the Gospels and 
in the New Testament generally. In view of all 
this, it is wrong to regard the tension between 
Christian faith and historical research as a 
burden of which, if it were possible, we would 
rather be relieved. On the contrary, one may 
think rather that it is of the good providence 
of God that the Gospels have come down to us 
in their present form, requiring ever-renewed 
study and exploration. 

2. The Gospels as Faith Documents. The 
second source of difficulty proves on examina- 
tion to be of no greater weight, though it looks 
at first sight very formidable. The suggestion is 
that it is impossible for us to encounter the his- 
toric Jesus when we read the Gospels, because 
we have in them an account written from the 
angle of faith in him: that is to say, we are 
presented (so it is alleged) not with the facts 
as such, but with a religious interpretation of 
them, an interpretation which may well lead 
in places to distortion and misrepresentation. 

In reply to this allegation it is necessary to 
consider whether there does not lurk behind it 
an untenable theory of knowledge. The error 
is to suppose that if we are really to get to 
know a reality of any sort, then we must some- 
how get to know it "in and for itself" as bare 
fact, that is, out of relation to the impression 
it makes upon us or upon anybody else. Thus 
to take an example from another sphere it is 
supposed, on this view, that when I look at a 
rose, the color, fragrance, and beauty of it are 
merely impressions in my rnind which the rose 
causes, but which are not aspects of its essential 
being. The impressions are a sort of curtain 
behind which the real rose the "rose in itself" 
remains hidden. In so far as the real rose is 
pictured at all, it is pictured as merely a source 
of energy which, radiating from it, causes vibra- 
tory impulses to run up the nerves to the brain 
cells, where they are transformed into sensory 


and aesthetic impressions. The latter, however, 
are "no more like the real rose than the knock 
on the door is like the postman." It is out of 
place here to discuss this phenomenalist theory 
of knowledge: its deficiencies have often enough 
been discussed by the philosophers. It is suffi- 
cient to make the obvious point which this 
theory involves, that we cannot really know any 
object at all, for obviously we cannot know an 
object unless it makes some impact upon us; yet 
on this view, directly it makes such an impact, 
it goes into hiding, so to speak, behind it. It is 
much more satisfactory to suppose (as we do 
normally suppose) that it is the real rose which 
is given to us in its color, shape, scent, and 
beauty. It is part of the reality of the object 
we call a rose that it is in a world along with 
conscious minds which are in rapport with 
their world through a nervous system, and that 
when it encounters such minds it offers itself, 
as it were, to them as color, shape, scent, and 
beauty. It does not hide behind these, but 
rather completes itself in them, discloses its 
reality and significance through them. 

Now a similar and equally unsatisfactory 
theory of knowledge may lie behind the notion 
we are considering, namely, that since we have 
in the Gospels a report and interpretation of 
Jesus and of the events of his life, written down 
by those who had a profound religious faith 
concerning him, therefore the real, historic facts 
are inaccessible to us. We are asked, in effect, 
to suppose that there was a Jesus "in and for 
himself" independently of the relations he en- 
tered into with other people and the impact he 
made upon them, and that this, and this alone, 
was the "real" Jesus. But the truth is that there 
are no persons "in and for themselves." To be 
a person in history is to be in relation with 
other persons, to act and react with them in a 
continuous interplay of reciprocal meanings, 
valuations, and interpretations. And the "real- 
ity" of a person can in greater or less degree be 
truly known through these relationships: he dis- 
closes himself, gives himself to others, through 
thus meeting with them. If he cannot be so 
known, then he cannot be known as a person 
at all. By the same argument, there are in his- 
tory no such things as bare facts or events, for 
history is the sphere of persons in relationship 
with one another, and events, in so far as they 
are factors in history, and not merely in imper- 
sonal nature, are all events having meaning to, 
and interpreted by, persons. There is therefore 
no reason to think that because in the Gospels 
we are presented with an account of Jesus as he 
entered into the religious faith of men and 
women with whom he had the closest personal 
relationships, that we cannot encounter his his- 
torical reality through that account. If we do so 

suppose, it can only be on grounds which make 
it impossible to know the world of history at all, 
either in the past or in the present; and the 
labors of historians, in so far as they go beyond 
the merely external cataloguing of dates, be- 
come a perpetual chasing of what can never be 

It may be said, however, that even if all this 
is granted, the interpretation of Jesus that lies 
behind and within the Gospels and the New 
Testament generally may, for all we know, be 
false and distortingly imposed upon the facts, so 
that while it cannot be denied that we may 
know the real Jesus through them, nevertheless 
we can never be sure that we do. The 
answer to this is to point out that it has never 
been maintained by the Christian faith that it 
is possible to know with growingly unassailable 
conviction the reality of Jesus as he is appre- 
hended by that faith merely by reading and 
studying the Gospels and the New Testament in 
a completely detached way, if indeed that is 
ever possible. It is part of the faith that a tran- 
scendent factor is involved, namely, the risen 
Christ working through the Holy Spirit in the 
Christian community. All we have been con- 
cerned to show is that if it is true, as we have 
maintained it to be, that it is an essential part 
of Christ's work for us that we should encounter 
and continually re-encounter him in his historic 
self -manifestation, then the difficulty which 
some feel that we cannot so encounter him 
because of the nature of the records is not a 
reasonable one, for it rests on very questionable 
epistemological presuppositions. It is clear, in- 
deed, that if the Christian faith is valid and 
Christ does in fact have the transcendent sig- 
nificance claimed for him, then only an account 
written from the angle of that faith could 
convey a historically trustworthy impression of 
him. Furthermore, this impression will not be 
nullified by the fact that doubtfully accurate 
statements enter here and there into the ac- 
count the total impact of the man Jesus Christ, 
as he evokes and sustains faith in himself, will 
still remain unimpaired. On the other hand, 
even if the Christian faith were false, it would 
still not follow that because the Gospels are 
written from the angle of such a mistaken be- 
lief, they therefore cannot convey to us a good 
deal of the real historic quality of Christ's per- 
sonality and life. For this at least we know for 
certain, that Jesus Christ was the historic per- 
son who evoked that faith. Nothing can alter 
that remarkable fact and all that has flowed 
from it; and no study of Jesus Christ which 
claims to be historically grounded, but which 
does not earnestly seek to do justice to that fact, 
is worth consideration. In that fact more than 
in any other the real Jesus is disclosed. It is at 



this point that many studies of Jesus Christ 
made by skeptical minds fail, and must be 
judged unscientific. They seek to appraise the 
story of Jesus without giving due weight to the 
faith he evoked and to the Christian movement 
which sprang from him. It may be stated as a 
definite principle for the study of the Gospels 
that those reconstructions of the life of Jesus 
Christ, which, if true, would leave the Christian 
movement and its faith, as it were, in mid-air, 
must be false. 

This leads to a word on the question of how 
written records from the past, or rather the 
reading and exposition of them, can be taken 
up into, and share in, Christ's present living and 
ruling relationship to the church. 

3. Hozv Written Records Enter into Christ's 
Living Relationship to the Church. It might 
be considered sufficient answer to the question 
to say, as has already been implied, that it is 
the work of the Holy Spirit to bring this about; 
but to say that and nothing more carries per- 
haps too much the suggestion of a merely in- 
comprehensible and miraculous tour de force. 
We get a little light on the matter by looking 
at it from the angle of the whole Christian faith 
concerning Christ, even though in the last 
analysis the way of the Spirit's working must 
remain a mystery. To look at it from this angle 
has the further advantage of enabling us to see 
once again how the significance and authority of 
the Bible are inseparably bound up with the 
whole organism of Christian faith and experi- 
ence, and cannot rightly be understood apart 
from it. 

If the Christian faith concerning Christ is 
true, then he stands in his historical and human 
self-manifestation, despite the ever-lengthening 
interval between that manifestation and those 
who come after him, in a peculiarly deep rela- 
tionship of contemporaneousness to all men. 
This is true in three ways: 

In the first place, if the Christian faith con- 
cerning him is valid, then the Christ who en- 
counters us in the pages of the New Testament, 
while he has the concrete individuality of his- 
toric personality, is the true universal of human 
nature. We implicitly recognize this in the way 
in which we believe it to be possible and desir- 
able for any man to be Christlike without losing 
his distinctive individuality. This means that 
Christ is profoundly and uniquely related to 
the inner being of every man in every age. He is 
the realization in concrete, historical reality of 
that norm which God made constitutive of 
human nature when he created man, and which, 
though it is frustrated and perverted by sin, can 
never be entirely destroyed. 

In the second place, if the Christian faith 
concerning him is valid, the Christ who meets 

us in the pages of the New Testament, being 
the Incarnation of the very nature and purpose 
of the personal God, is profoundly and uniquely 
related to the outward environment of all men, 
particularly the environment of personal rela- 
tionships which constitutes what we call history. 
The ultimate reality with which men have to 
deal in their present situations and tasks is a 
personal order, deriving its essential nature and 
meaning from a personal divine will whose 
character and direction are manifested fully in 
the person of Christ. Christ is, as it were, a clear 
and focused, a "concreted/' revelation of that of 
which the historical existence of men life as 
they have every day to live it and meet it is a 
clouded and distorted one. 

These first two points might be expressed to- 
gether by saying that Christ is every man's con- 
temporary because the whole of reality, par- 
ticularly in its relation to the world of persons 
both in its inward and its outward manifesta- 
tionsis Christ-grained, Christ-patterned (John 
1:1-18; Col. 1:15-19). 

In the third place, if the Christian faith con- 
cerning him is valid, Christ is men's contempo- 
rary, not merely because he is the expression in 
concrete individuality of the "essence" of man 
and of the personal order, but also because he 
is a living, personal purpose and presence who, 
through the Holy Spirit, is seeking actively and 
personally now to encounter men and claim 

All these aspects of what has been called the 
contemporaneousness of Christ, which are im- 
plicit in the Christian faith concerning him, 
shed at least a little light on the way in which 
the Gospels and the New Testament cease to be 
"dead" and "dated" documents from the past, 
and become part of the present saving ministry 
of the Redeemer. It is not a question of leaping 
over a gap of almost two thousand years out of 
Britain or the United States of today into 
first-century Palestine, and sitting at the feet of 
one who, however impressive, is alien to us. 
That would be the situation if Jesus were an 
ordinary man with no unique significance. But 
it is the Christian faith and experience that he 
is not an ordinary man: rather, there is incar- 
nate in him the divine will and purpose which 
lie behind and are at work in every human life 
and all history. 

We may give other expression to the same 
truth the truth that Christ's relationship to 
the Christian man is at one and the same time 
that of a historical figure in the past depicted 
in the Gospels and that of a contemporaneous 
reality deeply related to his inward being and 
his outward environment by insisting, as Chris- 
tianity has always insisted, that Christ's saving 
work and presence are mediated through the 



Christian fellowship, through the new covenant 
community. The Christian fellowship is a com- 
munity which is as fully contemporaneous with 
the believer as are the living men and women 
who constitute its membership and meet him 
in day-to-day "I-thou" relationships; but at the 
same time it is deeply and consciously rooted in 
and continuous with a past which runs back 
through the centuries to the historical Christ 
himself. And both these aspects are inseparably 
involved in its function as mediating Christ. 
When I participate in the life of the church, I 
encounter Christ actively disclosing himself to 
me now in and through an order of living per- 
sonal relationships which, despite its faults and 
failings nay, in some measure because of its 
faults and failings, or rather, because of the 
opportunity for distinctively Christian forbear- 
ance and forgiveness which these afford mani- 
festly bears the mark of his mind and spirit. 
Christ looks at me, as it were, through the eyes 
of contemporary men and women in whom he 
dwells. But I also encounter the historic Christ 
of long ago; for the church's long past, which 
goes right back to the first disciples whom he 
gathered around him in Palestine, and without 
the explicit consciousness of which it would not 
be what it is, now becomes my past, my memory, 
my history. 15 This is why the study and exposi- 
tion of the Scriptures, particularly the New 
Testament, within the worshiping fellowship of 
the church, is something so very different from 
the study of them by one whose interest is 
merely in historical or antiquarian research. 
Such study and exposition are integrally one 
with the life of the fellowship itself: they illu- 
mine and are reciprocally illumined by the 
whole organism of redeemed personal relation- 
ships which the New Testament calls the body 
of Christ. Perhaps the supreme illustration of 
these truths is the sacrament of the Last Supper. 
In the symbolism of this solemn and central rite 
the church deliberately goes back through the 
centuries to the Redeemer's earthly life; it obeys 
his direct injunction spoken by his human lips 
so many hundreds of years ago; it re-enacts his 
words and deeds as recorded in the Scriptures, 
which are read at the rite itself. Nevertheless, 
it is the faith and experience of the church that 
the rite is never a mere recalling of the past; it 
is not mere commemoration. In and through it 
there is a present communion with the risen 
and living Lord. 

B. Limits of the Canon. We now turn to the 
second of the two questions which arise in con- 
nection with the understanding of the norma- 

"Cf. Nicolas Berdyaev, The Meaning of History, tr. 
George Reavey (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 
1936), p. 16. 

tive place of the Bible within the church, 
namely, why the writings which are essential to 
the present efficacy of Christ's saving and ruling 
office in the church should be limited to the 
present contents of the Bible. This is to raise 
from the theological angle the question of 
the limits of the canon. 16 

So far as the Old Testament is concerned, the 
question is not a difficult one in principle, nor 
an important one in practice. In principle, it 
would be impossible to deny a place in the Old 
Testament to any writing which was manifestly 
important as participating in and witnessing to, 
and so enabling us more fully to grasp, the 
divine activity in the history of the old covenant 
people preparing and leading up to the coming 
of Christ. In practice, the question has no im- 
portance because the advent of Christ itself put 
a final limit to the old covenant history con- 
sidered as preparatory to that advent. There 
cannot, therefore, be any more candidates for 
canonicity, except in the extremely remote con- 
tingency of a new manuscript belonging to the 
Old Testament period being discovered. 
Though this is an eventuality so improbable 
as to be hardly worth considering, nevertheless 
it is clear that if it did happen, the church 
would have to consider the claim of the writing 
in question to be included in the canon. The 
only question which might be considered to 
remain open is that of the Apocrypha, or rather, 
of those books in the Apocrypha which help to 
bridge the gap between the two Testaments, 
and therefore to give knowledge of the history 
of the old covenant people immediately prior to 
the Incarnation itself (e.g., I and II Macca- 
bees) . In principle, there is no reason why the 
churches which now exclude the Apocrypha 
from the Bible should not at any time recon- 
sider the matter from this angle; but there does 
not appear to be any reason why they should 
do so, for the books are in any case available 
to Christian scholars and thinkers, and none of 
them is so strong a candidate (though some 
might well be thought stronger candidates than, 
say, the Song of Songs or Esther) as to make it 
worth while to open up what would probably 
prove a thorny and divisive question. 

The question of the limits of the canon is not 
so easily disposed of in relation to the New 
Testament. The church as the new covenant 
community is still going on, so that there is not, 
as there is in the case of the Old Testament, 
an inevitable chronological limit to the writings 
which might be considered to be candidates for 
canonicity. Why, then, should not later writings 

16 See also articles "The Canon of the Old Testament'* 
(pp. 32-45); "The Canon of the New Testament'* (pp. 



than those at present comprising the New 
Testament, some of them on a very high level 
of inspiration, which have been produced as 
part of the ongoing life of the church through- 
out the ages, enter as indispensably into the 
present living relationship of Christ to his 

To answer this question we must go back 
once again to the central Christian affirmation 
of the Incarnation. We must again insist that 
the divine saving action in Christ was "in and 
through" as well as "into" history. This "in- 
and-through-ness" implies that we must include 
in the scope of that action more than the human 
person of Christ. We must include in some 
measure the other human persons and events in 
immediate relation to which his life, death, and 
resurrection were wrought out and the new 
revelation made. If we do not thus widen the 
scope of the divine action, we must suppose 
either that it was a matter of chance whether 
the revelation in Christ would prove effective as 
a revelation, or that its effectiveness was inde- 
pendent of genuine historical conditions in 
other words, that there was no real historic In- 
carnation at all. 

The question is: In what measure must we 
include the human persons and events in rela- 
tion to which the life of the Redeemer was 
wrought out? This raises some formidable prob- 
lems, as, for example, in what sense must we 
include the betrayal by Judas and the rejection 
by the Jerusalem authorities in the divine plan 
to enter history and save mankind through 
Christ. Such questions run out into some of the 
oldest and most intractable problems of philo- 
sophical theology, but fortunately there is no 
need to consider them here. Our interest is 
simply in God's bringing into existence the new 
covenant community of saved men and women 
which should be both the first fruits and the 
agent of God's saving purpose toward mankind 
in Christ. Clearly, if this was to be accomplished, 
it was necessary that the divine action should 
include the provision of men who would not 
only keep company with Christ in the actual 
unfolding of his historic life, death, and resur- 
rection, but also discern the transcendent mean- 
ing of these events, and be sent forth to bear 
witness to it. The calling of such men, and the 
continual quickening of their minds and hearts 
to fulfill the calling, we can think of only as the 
mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. As Christ 
himself said, when Peter confessed that he was 
the Christ, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed 
it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" 
(Matt. 16:17) . But whatever the mystery of the 
divine working, the indispensability of these 
men is obvious. Only in their response does the 


divine intention and act of revelation complete 
itself. Had there been no such men, 

the story of Jesus would not have become a revela- 
tion to humanity; it would not have become the 
Word of God. It would have echoed and re-echoed, 
like a sound which passes unheard in a primeval 
forest. It would have been like a bridge which had 
been begun from one side of a river, but which 
never reached the other side. 17 

So the first apostles come into view as essentially 
and indispensably involved in the process of a 
historic incarnation and revelation. 

The word "apostle" in New Testament usage 
is nowhere exactly defined, but it seems clear 
that in essence it signifies precisely those who 
were called to play this crucial part in the 
totality of the divine action in Christ. Perhaps 
the best description of their function is given 
in the words: "That which ... we have heard, 
which we have seen with our eyes, which we 
have looked upon, and our hands have handled, 
of the Word of life. . . . That which we have 
seen and heard declare we unto you" (I John 
1:1, 3; cf. I Cor. 9:1, "Am I not an apostle? . . . 
have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?") There 
is, however, an important element to be added 
to this description, the element indicated by the 
word apostle itself. It is an essential part of 
the content of the divine revelation, and of its 
apprehension by those whose eyes saw and 
whose hands handled the Word of life, that 
these last should be sent, and be conscious of 
themselves as sent, to declare it to the world. 
In the sending of the apostles, and through the 
sending of the apostles, the purpose of God as 
manifested in Christ is set forth as a redemptive 
purpose which is impelled by its essential nature 
to go out to all mankind. "As my Father hath 
sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21) . 
Obvious as this may appear to be, it is of the 
greatest importance for a right doctrine of re- 
demption and of the church. Christian thought 
has been too much dominated by what someone 
has called "the ark" view of salvation, the view, 
that is, that being saved consists in being res- 
cued from something, whereas it consists just as 
much in being sent to do something; the "being- 
sent-to-do" is essentially part of the "being- 
rescued-from." "Apostolicity" or "being-sent- 
ness" lies therefore at the very heart of the 
Christian revelation, springing as it does from 
what one may perhaps venture to call the 
"apostolic" activity of God God in his saving 
purpose sends the Son, and the Son sends those 
who respond to his revelation and call. 

The first apostles, then, stand in a distinctive 

17 Emil Brunner, Revelation and Reason, tr. O. Wyon 
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1946), p. 122. My 
thought at this point is indebted to Brunner. 


position within the divine saving revelation in 
Christ, and in the bringing into existence of the 
new covenant community. They participate in 
the historic actuality of the Incarnation, and it 
is an essential element in the participation that 
they are sent into the world to bear witness to 
it. The bearing witness had to be in the first 
instance oral the preaching of the gospel 
but it is evident that if any of the apostolic 
circle gave any sort of expression to the message 
in writing, or was the immediate source or in- 
spiration of such writing, the writing in ques- 
tion would have a special significance and 
status. It would itself be part of, an immediate 
deposit of, the great originative historic event 
itself, and no writing subsequently produced by 
others could possibly have the same significance 
and status. 

That it was not long before written docu- 
ments (especially compilations of the inci- 
dents and sayings of the Master's life) appeared 
and were being circulated within the new com- 
munity is easily understandable; there is no 
need to try to analyze the process here. And it 
is as easily understandable that in due course, 
when the young community moved out into the 
Greek world, when the many currents of 
thought in that world began to play upon it, 
and when at the same time Christian writings 
some of them of secondary and doubtful value 
began to multiply and gain currency, the need 
was felt to establish a select body or canon of 
writings which should express and preserve 
once and for all, in as pure a form as possible, 
the story of the originative events of the Savior's 
life and death and resurrection, and the apos- 
tolic testimony concerning them. Such a collec- 
tion of writings would inevitably be thought of 
as the completion of the Old Testament canon 
which was already in use, and would act both as 
a continuous source and a corrective standard 
of the church's teaching and life. But the process 
in its broad outline much of its detail is ob- 
scure is not only easy to understand; it must 
be judged to be wholly right and justified. The 
necessity for authoritative writings of some sort 
is implicit in the idea of a historic revelation 
and redemption; without such writings the 
historic events, along with their crucial sig- 
nificance for men, would have been lost in alien 
systems of thought, or in embroidered legends, 
or in theosophical and mystical speculations, if 
indeed the knowledge of them had not faded 
away altogether into oblivion, their memory 
and influence gradually dissipated and dissolved 
into the unregenerate life of mankind. 

Furthermore, it was right instinct which led 
the church in course of time to formulate the 
principle that from among the writings which 
the general mind of the community had already, 

by the unconscious selection of use, declared to 
be valuable and worth preserving, only those 
should be finally admitted to the canon which 
were apostolic in origin, for as we have seen, 
the apostles do stand apart: they are within 
the circle of the divine revelation in Christ, 
within the process of the Incarnation itself, and 
any testimony of theirs shares in the same dis- 
tinctive status. The criterion of apostolicity, 
however, having been thus justifiably laid down, 
the task of applying it correctly was no easy 
one, and the question still remains whether in 
point of fact it was so applied. This is a large 
question, involving matters of New Testament 
scholarship and research into which it is not 
necessary to enter. But the judgment seems 
warranted that if we do not identify apostolic 
origin with direct apostolic authorship, and if 
we frankly allow for legitimate doubt in respect 
of some of the writings included in our New 
Testament (e.g., II Peter, James, Jude, Revela- 
tion) , the church on the whole decided well. 
Broadly speaking, the New Testament is an 
apostolic book and therefore shares in the 
unique status of the apostolic circle in relation 
to the Incarnation. And in the New Testament 
we do find ourselves confronting the historic 
person of the Redeemer in his unique creative 
and re-creative impact upon men, bringing into 
existence the new covenant community and 
sending and empowering it to bear witness to 
him throughout the world, in a way in which 
we do not confront him in other early writings 
of the church, even the most beautiful and help- 
ful. While it is obviously impossible to main- 
tain that the New Testament would not have 
played a part in the life of the Christian com- 
munity and in the lives of its individual mem- 
bers if it had included some writings which 
it does not now include, or had excluded some 
it now contains, it is beyond question that the 
New Testament, taken as a whole, has been and 
is indispensable to God's giving to every new 
generation the riches which are in Christ. On 
the principles here laid down, the exact bound- 
aries of the New Testament canon may be held 
to be debatable, yet the distinctiveness and 
indispensability of what lies centrally and sol- 
idly within those boundaries remain quite clear 
and undeniable. In a similar way, although the 
precise limits of the sun when it rides the 
heavens at noon cannot be discerned with our 
eyes, there is no doubt in what part of the 
heaven it is, or that it gives light and warmth 
and healing to mankind. 

The absence of boundaries which we can 
exactly define and justify might perhaps be 
looked upon as bearing witness once more to 
the thoroughgoing historical reality of the reve- 
lation which lies at the center of the Christian 



faith. It bears witness once more to the "in and 
through" aspect of it. The same witness is borne 
by the nature of the writings comprised within 
the New Testament. None of them, of course, 
was written for the purpose of finding a place 
in an authoritative canon defined in accordance 
with a prior idea as to what such a canon should 
be and should provide. They were written 
simply to meet the actual situations which con- 
fronted the new faith as it went out into the 
world in the persons of those who committed 
themselves to it. As such they are rooted in the 
historic process itself, even as is the Incarnation 
with which they are integrally bound up. 

IV. The Nature of the Authority of the Bible 

This article has maintained that there is only 
one final and absolute authority for the faith 
and life of the church, and therefore for the 
faith and life of the individual members within 
it: namely, the living Christ speaking through 
the Holy Spirit. It has sought to show that the 
reason why the New Testament participates 
indispensably in the authority of the living 
Christ is that the faith and witness of the apos- 
tolic circle are part of the original act of divine 
revelation "into" and "in and through" history. 
If we desire to hear God's word to us in Christ 
and to be kept from straying again into the 
darkness from which he came to deliver us, we 
must always begin with the New Testament 
and to it we must ever return, for that is but 
to begin with Christ and to return to him. This 
commits us to the study of the Old Testament 
as well, for the coming of Christ, and the bring- 
ing into existence of the new covenant com- 
munity through him, are continuous with the 
life and history of the old covenant community 
and cannot be fully comprehended apart from 

The question to which we now address our- 
selves is how, in view of all that has been said, 
the Scriptures are to be used so that their nor- 
mative function may be rightly exercised. 

A. The Authority of the Bible Not Different 
from That of Christ. The first thing that has 
to be said is that the authority of the Bible, 
being bound up with the authority of the living 
Christ himself, cannot be a different sort of 
authority from his. If, then, we ask what sort 
of authority Christ seeks to exercise over men, 
the primary appeal must be to the New Testa- 
ment. This is in accordance with the principles 
already laid down. In any case, to ascribe to the 
biblical writings, and particularly to the New 
Testament, a kind of authority which it is not 
even hinted that Christ ever claimed for him- 
self, or wanted to claim, would be to put a con- 
trariety at the very sources of our faith. 
When we examine the Gospels, we find that 

at no point did Christ attempt to exercise an 
external, overriding authority, to whose pro- 
nouncements men are required to submit with- 
out investigation or criticism, and altogether 
apart from any inward endorsement and re- 
sponse within their own minds. On the con- 
trary, we meet the exact reverse a steadfast 
refusal to do so, and even a deliberate avoidance 
of any relationship which might perhaps wear 
that coercive appearance. This characteristic of 
Christ's life and teaching is so manifest through- 
out the Gospels that illustration is hardly neces- 
sary. It is indeed so characteristic of him, and at 
the same time so contrary to the natural in- 
stincts of men, that it constitutes one of the 
evidences of the truth of the record. One may 
refer only to his refusal to provide a sign from 
heaven, when asked so to do; to his refusal to 
answer the question on what authority he did 
"these things," on the ground that his question- 
ers were not sincere; to such sayings as "He 
that hath ears to hear, let him hear," and "Why 
do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" 
In John Oman's words: 

The great demonstration of the Christ is just 
that He never sets Himself, as the absolute external 
authority of the perfect truth, in opposition to the 
imperfect authority of the finite and sinful spirit 
within, but that He has only one appeal, which is 
to the likeness of God and the teaching of God 
within. Jesus speaks indeed with authority. He is 
not as the Scribes. They had authorities, but no 
authority. They had nothing to speak from direct, 
and nothing to appeal to direct. Jesus, on the other 
hand, speaks from man tc man the truth He has 
seen and to which his hearers cannot be blind, 
unless they close their eyes. . . . His "I say unto you" 
did not end inquiry, but begin it. Hear something, 
it said, which the humble heart will recognise as 
true, and which the experience of obedience will 
confirm. And surely herein is the weightiest proof of 
the perfect truth. It does not dominate and silence 
the inward voices, but awakes them and makes 
them its chief witness. 18 

The rest of the New Testament is in harmony 
with this. In the Acts the apostles are plainly 
set before us as men of authority in the infant 
church, yet their authority is not of the magis- 
terial kind working by dictation and coercion, 
but rather of a kind which works by persuasion 
through love, as can be seen in the proceedings 
of the so-called Council of Jerusalem recorded 
in Acts 15. The same note appears in the epistles 
of Paul, wherein the writer, though ready to 
speak with great force and conviction, neverthe- 
less seeks to persuade his readers by argument 
and exposition, appealing to them to "judge 

18 Vision and Authority (new and rev. ed.; London: 
Hodder & Stoughton, 1928; New York: Harper & Bros., 
1929), pp. 107, 112. Used by permission. 


for yourselves what I say" (I Cor. 10:15), and 
commending the truth "to every man's con- 
science in the sight of God" (II Cor. 4:2) . 

It follows that it is a most grave disloyalty to 
Christ, and to the Scripture which he uses to 
speak to men, to turn the latter into an over- 
riding authority of the extrinsic, "yardstick" 
sprt, whether by ascribing to it a miraculous 
infallibility whose statements none may ques- 
tion or investigate, or by forcing it usually by 
strained exegesis to stand sponsor for a system 
of doctrine the acceptance of which is demanded 
as essential to salvation (as in some types of 
Protestant orthodoxy) , or by using it as a kind 
of sortes Vergilianae or means of divination (as 
in certain kinds of foolish, intense piety we all 
know) . 

By the same argument, we are brought to see 
what is the right use of the Scripture, and what 
is true loyalty to it. We betake ourselves to the 
Scripture as part of our betaking ourselves to 
the feet of Christ, in the humble faith that in 
him, and therefore in the Scripture through 
which he chooses to encounter us, is the final 
truth for our lives; yet well knowing that only 
as this truth becomes veritably our truth, the 
truth which compels our allegiance through our 
own sincerest thought in relation to our own 
contemporary world, is Christ's purpose and 
therefore the Scripture's purpose fulfilled in 

There are, however, two possible objections 
to this position which must be faced. 

First, it is sometimes urged that thus to under- 
stand the authority of Scripture is in effect to 
destroy it altogether; for, it is said, if we accept 
in the Scripture only what compels our own 
assent, we are exposed to the danger of an un- 
checked individualism by which each takes or 
leaves what his own judgment may dictate. 
The answer to this is to insist once again 
on the double truth that Scripture is a 
norm which is intrinsic to the life of the whole 
Christian community, and that its normative 
function is inseparable from the ever-present 
ministry of the living Christ through the 
Holy Spirit. It is to the insight of the in- 
dividual that Christ speaks, but to picture 
the individual Christian to whom Christ thus 
speaks as an isolated and self-contained unit 
shut up within the circle of his own mental 
processes is to deny in effect the two truths just 
stated. The Christian man who is being brought 
by Christ into the new life of reconciliation 
with God is by that fact incorporated in the new 
covenant community, and it is only as such that 
he can properly understand and use the Scrip- 
tures. This is itself a continuous and effective 
check upon eccentric individualism. But in ad- 
dition, the Christian man, along with the com- 

munity of which he is part, is under the prom- 
ised guidance of the Holy Spirit. To fear an 
uncontrolled and destructive individualism is 
therefore to express an ultimate unbelief in the 
effectiveness of God's revelation in Christ and 
in his power to authenticate that revelation to 
any who seek to open their minds to it. (The 
truths contained in this paragraph are implicit 
in Eph. 4:11-16.) 

In this connection it is perhaps not without 
significance that it was during the era when 
Protestantism generally assumed the literal in- 
errancy of Scripture, and used it in an exter- 
nally authoritarian way, that it broke up into 
a multitude of sects; whereas it has been in 
more recent times, since biblical scholarship 
released us from this bondage and gave us the 
true freedom of the Scripture, that the process 
has shown a marked tendency to be reversed. 
The various churches have begun to draw to- 
gether, and have increasingly discovered a fun- 
damental unity of belief. Post hoc, ergo propter 
hoc is no doubt a precarious argument, but 
these facts certainly suggest that the view that 
an authoritarian use of Scripture is necessary to 
preserve us from a divisive individualism is not 
borne out by experience. 

Second, it may be said that thus to throw 
the Christian believer back upon his own in- 
ward sense of truth is to fail to take account of 
his actual situation as a weak and sinful man, 
who, because of his weakness and sinfulness, 
needs an authoritative guidance and direction 
transcending his own powers. To adapt some 
words written elsewhere, the cry for firm and 
trustworthy direction as to what a man should 
do and believe springs from the reality of the 
human situation. Sin is always with us, and sin 
obscures God. Terrible things happen, and the 
soul begins to doubt the truth of its highest 
vision. Testing situations arise when a man is 
called to stake even his life, and then he begins 
to waver and to ask for some other assurance 
than his own inward conviction that the sacri- 
fice he is called upon to make is really worth 
while. It is these facts of man's spiritual imma- 
turity and spasmodic and erratic growth into 
the truth, his muddled insights, his shadowed 
and chaotic life, his sinful failures and dis- 
loyalties everything in his nature which clouds 
and obscures vision which evoke the cry for 
an authority which shall tell him once and for 
all what he must believe, what he must do, and 
what he may hope for. 19 If the Scriptures do 
not answer this cry and meet this need, of what 
essential value are they to him? But how can 
they do so if he is thrown back in the end on 
his own feeble understanding of them? 

i See Herbert H. Farmer, The Servant of the Word 
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942), pp. 83-84. 



The answer to this can only be to reaffirm 
what has already been said, namely, that m 
Christ God has in fact given the truth in such 
a form that it is able to reach men even in the 
darkness and weakness of their sinfulness, with- 
out, however, overriding their minds in an 
impersonally authoritarian way. In this work of 
Christ, as we have seen, the Scriptures play an 
instrumental and indispensable part in co- 
operation with the Holy Spirit. This is funda- 
mentally a matter of faith; but it is also in 
sufficient measure a matter of proved experi- 
ence. And this further should be added: The 
clamor for an authoritarian direction which 
shall dispel all our doubts and perplexities, 
exempt us from ever making mistakes, and 
therefore from learning from them humility and 
patience and charity for others, relieve us of any 
necessity to make up our own minds, or to 
venture on decisions of faith which take us out, 
like Abraham, into the unknown such clamor 
may itself be a manifestation of our unregener- 
ate state, of that anxiety and unbelief which lie 
somewhere at the heart of sin. Indeed, we may 
assert that it is such a manifestation, for cer- 
tainly there is no evidence, either in Scripture 
or in experience, that that sort of direction is 
in fact provided for us. Nevertheless, there is 
always a true succor for our need, even if it is 
at times not so much the succor of clear vision 
as of faith renewed, faith in the overshadowing 
and pardoning love of God from which nothing 
can separate us, not even our sin, still less our 
perplexities, immaturities, and mistakes. 

B. Some Principles of Discrimination and In- 
terpretation. When once we have set to one 
side the infallibility of the Scriptures, and have 
fully admitted that the Christian believer or 
theologian in his use of them must be guided 
in the last resort by his own conviction of truth, 
we admit in principle the right to set to one 
side some of the biblical content. But on the 
other hand, if the Bible is the record of the 
divine revelation in history, and as such part of 
the revelation, there must be within it that 
from which the Christian is not at liberty to 
depart without gravely imperiling, if not de- 
stroying, the notion of an objective historical 
revelation available in an accessible and rele- 
vant form. It is the task of theology, and that 
which gives its work vitality and value in every 
new generation, to keep these two things the 
critical discrimination of the content of the 
Bible, and the faith that there is within that 
content that which is objectively and finally 
given in continuous tension with one an- 
other. 20 Though this is a tension which can 
never be completely overcome, some broad 

so Cf p 18 regarding the value of the questions raised 
by the historical criticism of the Bible. 

principles may be laid down in relation to it on 
the basis of the general position set forth in this 

(a) It is perhaps hardly necessary to say at 
this time of day that the Christian is free to 
reject beliefs concerning the facts of the naturaj 
order which find expression in the Bible, but 
which are contrary to the established and tested 
findings of competent scientific research. To 
suppose that we must accept every biblical be- 
lief about the facts of nature would be to ignore 
both the historic character of the Christian 
revelation and the distinctive content of it: the 
historic character of it requires, as has been said 
so often already, that it should be "in and 
through'* human life, that is, at the level of 
general knowledge and culture obtaining at the 
time it is made; the content of the revelation, 
on the other hand, being Christ the redeemer 
and reconciler, is plainly unaffected by the ques- 
tion whether a man is, say, a medieval Christian 
believing, with the biblical writers, that the 
earth is flat, or a modern Christian believing, 
contrary to the biblical writers, that it is round. 
No doubt we have always to be on our guard 
against accepting too easily and uncritically the 
views of scientists on this or that matter. It is 
especially necessary to discriminate between ex- 
perimentally established facts and those theo- 
retical interpretations of facts which at best are 
never more than probable hypotheses, and 
which in many cases fall outside the scope of 
strict science and become essentially philosoph- 
ical in character. But the obligation to be thus 
cautious in the interest of truth is a general one 
and rests upon all men, not merely on the Chris- 
tian believer, though no doubt the Christian 
believer has an added incentive to watchfulness 
because of his concern that the essential truth 
of the biblical revelation shall not be set to one 
side by speculations falsely claiming the author- 
ity of science. However difficult it may be in 
some cases to determine the boundary between 
fully accredited fact, probable hypothesis, and 
philosophical speculation, particularly when, as 
is sometimes the case, they are intertwined with 
one another, the general principle that has 
been laid down is clear and indubitable, 
namely, that scriptural views on such matters as 
natural science is competent to investigate and 
determine cannot be regarded, on a right view 
of the Scriptures, as binding. 

(b) The distinction must be made, whenever 
appropriate, between the content of the biblical 
revelation and the symbols through which it is 
expressed. The latter may belong, like views on 
the facts of nature, to the culture and thought 
forms of the time, and we are free, if we will, 
to set them to one side and find other symbols 
and forms of expression. It is another of the 



great services o the historical approach to the 
Bible that it often enables us to recover, in a 
way that was not possible before, the meaning 
which a particular form of expression had to 
those who used it and to those to whom it was 
addressed. This gives us a firmer grasp of the 
meaning intended (guarding us against reading 
into it our own meanings) , and at the same time 
it releases us from bondage to the symbol itself. 
A notable example of this is the understanding 
we now ha\e of the symbolism of the book of 
Jonah, an understanding through which the 
full force of its teaching has been recovered, 
releasing us once and for all from the prepos- 
terous notion that acceptance of the fish 
episode as historic fact is somehow part of a 
sound Christian faith. Another illustration is 
the understanding we now have of the meta- 
phorical element in such key words of Paul's 
thought as "justification" (a symbol from the 
law courts) , "adoption" (a symbol from con- 
temporary social custom) , and "redemption" (a 
symbol from the institution of slavery) . 21 

(c) That the revelation set forth in the Bible 
is a developing revelation is implicit in the idea 
of the New Testament as the fulfillment of the 
Old and is plainly evident from the content of 
Scripture itself. This means that we have not 
merely the right but the duty to discriminate 
within the scripture records between different 
levels in the apprehension of God's nature and 
purpose and to reject the lower levels once and 
for all in favor of the higher. For only by so 
doing can we once again be loyal to the notion 
of a revelation which God has given through 
the medium of historical events, and to the 
faith that Christ himself is the final source and 
norm of all truth in this sphere. 22 

At the same time it must be recognized that 
it is not always easy to make such a discrimina- 
tion between lower and higher levels. Difficulty 
arises for two reasons. 

The first is that though we may rightly speak 
of development in the apprehension of God 
set forth in the biblical history, nevertheless the 
development is not a straight linear advance, 
such as it has sometimes been represented to be 
by thinkers too much dominated by the un- 
critical nineteenth-century notion of an inevi- 
table and always mounting progress in human 
affairs. In the biblical history we do not see 
depicted the "evolution of religion/' but the 

21 Cf. Adolf Deissmann, Paul, tr. William E. Wilson 
(2nd ed.; New York: George H. Doran, 1926), pp 167 ff. 

32 Christ's "Ye have heard that it was said by them of 
old time, . . . but I say unto you" is a clear recognition 
of different levels in the divine revelation to and through 
the covenant people. That history must be a develop- 
ment process in order to be a true meeting place between 
God and men as persons, I have sought to show in my 
book The World and God, p. 300. 

wrestling of the living God with real human 
persons, who have wills of their own and are 
liable to all the perversities of mind and heart 
which characterize human persons. The earlier 
is therefore not necessarily on a lower level than 
the later: there is retrogression as well as pro- 
gression; and the task of discrimination can 
ne\er be simply a matter of establishing, if we 
can, a chronological sequence. Something of 
direct religious insight and evaluation has also 
to come into play, enabling us to differentiate 
between what is essentially sound and of per- 
manent value, even though relatively undevel- 
oped, and what is essentially unsound, even 
though otherwise on a much higher cultural 
level. The Bible itself justifies us in making 
such a differentiation and helps us to make it, 
for it is an essential part of the witness of the 
prophetic minds, whose message it preserves, to 
recall their contemporaries from their perpetual 
wanderings into error and darkness to, as it 
were, the highway of God's unfolding disclosure 
of himself to them through the working out of 
his purpose in their history. It is indeed part of 
the value of the Bible to us that it thus mediates 
the purpose of God to us through a record 
of men's continual disloyalties to and depar- 
tures from it, for the same tendencies to stray 
into error are always present within the human 
soul. And it is also part of its value that though 
what we have called the highway of God's reve- 
lation of truth is indicated, there is always need 
for our own insight and discrimination to be 
brought into play if we are to discern it and 
find in it a directive for our own life. 

The second reason has to do with the am- 
biguity in the meaning of the term "fulfill- 
ment," to which reference was made earlier (see 
p. 10) . When we say that the New Testament 
fulfills the Old we may mean that it provides 
answers to certain fundamental religious ques- 
tions which the Old Testament leaves unan- 
swered or answers unsatisfactorily. Clearly such 
fulfillment supersedes the Old Testament so far 
as the answers to these questions are concerned, 
though the Old Testament record in relation to 
such questions may still have great value in 
making clear what they are and how they arise, 
and in warning against those partial or 
false solutions which the New Testament once 
and for all sets to one side. C. H. Dodd, in a 
chapter headed "The New Testament as the 
Fulfillment of the Old," lists five such funda- 
mental questions. 28 

On the other hand, we may think of the New 
Testament as fulfilling the Old in such a way 
that what is fulfilled is not completely set to 
one side, but, on the contrary, is validated and 

23 The Authority of the Bible (New York: Harper & 
Bros., 1929), pp. 205-23. 



its true significance and value preserved and 
made plain. Moreover, that which is thus ful- 
filled may in a measure reciprocally illumine 
and illustrate that which fulfills it. An example 
will help to make this clear. In Hosea's loyal 
and tender relationship with his erring wife, 
and in the new discernment of God's nature 
and purpose which came to him through that 
tragic experience, we can see, as we look back 
on it from the standpoint of the New Testament 
revelation, both a true likeness to Christ and 
at least a partial discernment of the truth which 
was fully disclosed in him. And because of this 
continuity of truth between the two, because 
the incomplete and the partial, so far from 
being abrogated, is taken up and reaffirmed 
in that which fulfills it, we can even use the 
story of Hosea (as many a preacher must have 
done) to illustrate, and by illustrating to illu- 
mine, the truth which is in Christ. In a similar 
way, the faith of Abraham, the sympathetic and 
pitiful imagination of David, the deep concern 
of the Mosaic law for the weak and needy, the 
penitence of the psalmist, the "servant passages" 
of Isaiah, and much else in the Old Testament, 
can be understood in a new way in the light of 
Christ; and they may even help us to appre- 
hend and appropriate that light more fully. 

It is along these lines that we can find room 
in our use of the Old Testament for something 
that might be called a "typology," but it is 
obviously a very different typology from that 
which can be amply illustrated from the history 
of scriptural interpretation namely, that which 
fancifully and ingeniously reads into almost 
anything in the Old Testament oblique Chris- 
tian references and meanings, without any re- 
gard to what a sound exegesis would show to be 
the real meaning and intention of the text. The 
hold which typological and allegorical methods 
of interpretation (seldom clearly distinguished 
from one another) have had on the minds of 
students of Scripture all down the history of 
the church can be sympathetically regarded as 
an endeavor to assert the continuity of the Old 
and New Testaments and the divine unity of 
Scripture. But it too often rested on what we 
now see to be (i) an inevitably inadequate 
exegetical equipment; (ii) a defective sense of 
the meaning of a historical revelation, which 
made it seem necessary to find an equal place 
in the divine revelation for everything in the 
Old Testament (even for the voluptuous love 
lyric called the Song of Songs usually inter- 
preted as an allegory of the relation of Christ 
to the church) ; and (iii) a failure to realize 
that if there is continuity between the Old and 
New Testaments, there is also a radical discon- 
tinuity between them. 

(d) It is important in discriminating the 


biblical material to be sure that we are not 
doing so on the basis of theological or philo- 
sophical presuppositions and principles which 
have been adopted on grounds extraneous to 
the biblical revelation, which have never been 
thoroughly scrutinized in the light of that 
revelation, and which may in fact be contrary 
to it. Thus to give some examples whatever 
we may make of the difficult question of the 
miracle stories in the Bible, we must seek to be 
sure that the position we adopt in regard to it 
is not based on a general philosophical position 
which not only starts elsewhere than in the 
fundamental biblical view of God as personally 
active in the world he has made, but must also, 
if logically wrought out, gravely impugn that 
view. Or again, whatever we may make of the 
eschatological elements in the New Testament, 
we must seek to be sure that we are not bringing 
to the interpretation of them a view of history 
which owes much more to current notions of 
evolution and progress than to serious wrestling 
with the distinctively biblical view of the rela- 
tion of time and eternity. Or again, we must 
take care that the very somber view which is 
taken throughout the Bible of man's status as a 
sinner before God is not unconsciously toned 
down and reinterpreted, if not almost com- 
pletely explained away, on the basis of an 
optimistic, semipantheistic humanism which, if 
it is true, really takes the heart out of the dis- 
tinctive biblical message of man's redemption. 

The problem of rightly relating to one an- 
other the special interests and problems of 
philosophy and a theology which is seeking to 
be true to the Bible is a difficult one, and affords 
another of those tensions which keep theological 
work alive. It is not possible to avoid the use 
of philosophical categories (such as time, eter- 
nity, cause, purpose, personality) in building 
up a systematic theology; moreover, the general 
cosmological framework into which the Chris- 
tian theologian, and even preacher, inevitably 
seeks to fit his Christian convictions is bound to 
contain elements of which the Bible knows 
nothing, on which it sheds little direct light, 
and to which in some measure a philosophical 
evaluation must be applied if they are to be 
rightly assessed (as the facts of biological evolu- 
tion) . Nevertheless, the general principle, how- 
ever difficult to apply, remains clear, namely, 
that we must be continually interrogating our- 
selves to see whether we are allowing the Bible 
in its basic affirmations to be determinative of 
our thinking, or whether we are making some 
other view the criterion to which (perhaps 
unconsciously) we compel all else, including 
the Bible itself, to submit. The point may be 
put another way by saying that the principles 
by which we discriminate the biblical material 


must be supplied by the Bible itself, or at least 
be in fundamental harmony with it, and not be 
taken over uncritically from elsewhere. 2 * 

(e) A special word may perhaps be said con- 
cerning the application to the Gospels and to 
the New Testament epistles of the principles 
which we have discussed. The view herein set 
forth certainly implies that we are not under 
obligation to accept without question every 
belief and teaching which is ascribed to Christ, 
or finds place in the epistles, as though a quota- 
tion from these were sufficient to settle every 
problem, or at least to supply the quite indis- 
putable premise of every argument Many, 
however, will feel a particular shrinking from 
claiming the right to exercise such a discrimina- 
tory judgment on the New Testament; it seems 
like tampering with the very springs of Chris- 
tian truth. This feeling must certainly be 
honored to the extent of insisting most strongly 
that the work of discrimination within the New 
Testament requires always the greatest care and 
humility of spirit, and a constant readiness to 
review one's judgment, lest aught of the new 
and challenging truth be lost. But if the feeling 
is allowed to issue in a total prohibition against 
setting to one side anything in the New Testa- 
ment, we are in effect back in that wrong view 
of the authority of Scripture which in fact in- 
volves a far greater disloyalty to it than the 
possible errors against which such a view is 
alleged to give protection. 

The duty and the right to discriminate (al- 
ways, it may perhaps be well to say again, from 
within the fellowship of the church and under 
the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit) are 
perhaps not so difficult to affirm in relation to 
the epistles as in relation to the Gospels, for 
the writers of the epistles, great as they were and 
commandingly unique as is their function in 
the economy of God's revelation in Christ, were 
in their degree sinful and fallible men. They 
were seeking to appropriate and express, in 
relation to their own historical situations and 
under a divine guidance which certainly did not 
confer either infallibility or sinless perfection, 
the riches given in Christ; and it is obvious that 
what they say does not provide us with a per- 
fectly harmonious system of thought and belief, 
though there is, of course, a deep underlying 
unity. In the Gospels, however, we believe our- 
selves to encounter the perfect One, the incar- 
nate Son of God. Therefore, if we feel led to 
question beliefs and teachings ascribed to him, 
it can never be in such a way as even distantly 
to hint or imply that we know better than he 
concerning the deep things of God. It can only 

a* See Herbert H. Fanner, "Some Reflections on Pro- 
fessor Wieman's New Book/' Journal of Religion, XXVII 
(1947), 114. 

be for one or both of two reasons: (i) because 
we see that the belief in question is not inte- 
grally part of the saving truth Christ came to 
disclose, but is rather part of the mental furni- 
ture of any first-century Jew, and so enters 
indispensably into his historic humanity, or 
(ii) because we have good reason to think that 
Christ's teaching has been inadequately or in- 
accurately reported. An example of (i) might 
be found in the belief held in demons and 
demon possession, which Christ apparently 
shared. Some Christians today reject this belief, 
and whether we agree with them in this or not, 
it must be conceded that they are within their 
rights so to do, provided only that they are 
prepared to maintain the position that belief in 
demon possession is not integral to "saving 
truth," and that the holding of this belief was 
part of Christ's historic humanity as a first- 
century Jew. An example of (ii) might be 
found in some aspects of Christ's reported 
eschatological teaching. There is evidence to 
suggest that contemporary apocalyptic ideas and 
schemes of thought have entered more or less 
distortingly into the reports given us in the 
Gospels. The so-called Little Apocalypse of 
Mark 13, for example, has a symmetry which 
makes it more than a little dubious whether it 
can be accepted as it stands and in its entirety 
as an authentic utterance of Christ. 

C. The Bible as the Word of God. It may 
well be asked, in view of all that has been said, 
in what sense, if any, we can properly speak of 
the Bible as the Word of God. When the Scrip- 
tures were regarded as literally inerrant, the 
writers being passive instruments in God's 
hands, there was a clear and definite sense in 
which the Scriptures could be called the Word 
of God. God wrote the Scriptures, and they 
were therefore his written Word. But when 
this view is rejected, and we regard it as both a 
right and a duty to exercise a discriminatory 
judgment on the Scriptures, the time-honored 
phrase, the Word of God, if we continue to use 
it, obviously calls for fresh exposition and defi- 
nition. The need becomes the more evident 
when inquiry reveals that both in the Bible 
itself and in theological usage the phrase, the 
Word of God, has had a number of variant 
though not unrelated meanings. 

In the New Testament the concept of the 
"word" (used simpliciter, or in variant phrases 
such as "Word of God" or "word of the Cross" 
or "word of the Gospel," etc.) seems to bear the 
following main meanings: (a) the content of 
the gospel message, as disclosed to mankind by 
God through Christ, and as witnessed to in the 
preaching of the apostles see Mark 4:14-20; 
Acts 16:6; Rev. 1:2; Acts 15:7; I Cor. 1:18; Phil. 
2:16; (b) the total truth for life, conduct, and 



belief, which is implicit in the gospel proclama- 
tion, and which must be accepted if the full 
riches of the gospel are to be enjoyed see Col. 
1:5; Tit. 1:9; I Pet. 2'8; 3:1; Jas. 1:22; II Cor. 
4:2; (c) God's active power as manifested in the 
creation and preservation of the world see II 
Pet 3:5; Heb. 1:3; (d) God's activity in salva- 
tion, both within the hearts and minds of be- 
lievers and in the church see Heb. 4:12; 6:5; 
Jas. 1:18; Eph. 5:26; Col. 3:16; and finally (<?) 
the distinctively Johannine thought the ex- 
pression of God's eternal being in an eternally 
outgoing activity of creative reason, which 
creates the world, gives life and understanding 
to men, and finally becomes incarnate in Jesus 
Christ see John 1:1-4, 14; I John 1:1; Rev. 

It is not difficult to see what is the dominant 
and unifying thought of all these usages: the 
Word of God signifies the revealing activity of 
the living and personal God in creation and 
toward men, particularly as this is manifest and 
operative in the gospel "gospel" being here 
used as an all-inclusive term to signify (a) the 
content of the gospel, namely, that God himself 
came in a supreme, saving act of self-giving and 
self-disclosure in Christ, (b) the declaration of 
the gospel through the preaching and teaching 
of its primary witnesses, and (c) the making of 
the gospel effective in the hearts and lives of 
those who believe. To this wealth of meaning 
all of it centering in the thought of the reveal- 
ing activity of God toward men the symbol of 
the Word is singularly appropriate; it would be 
difficult to think of one more compendiously 
adequate. For the spoken word springs from, is 
sustained by, and directly expresses the person- 
ality of the speaker in his purposeful activity, 
as nothing else does his reasoned thought, his 
desire to unveil his mind, his intention to chal- 
lenge and draw a response from the mind and 
will of another person. And speech can be most 
deeply penetrative in its effects on those who 
hear it. No doubt the symbol of the Word be- 
comes somewhat strained when it is applied, as 
in the Johannine literature, to the divine Re- 
deemer himself, for "word" normally signifies 
the expression and act of personality, not the 
personality itself. The strain is evidenced by 
the fact that this usage stands rather apart in 
the New Testament, and by the fact that many 
people find the conception of Christ as "the 
Word of God" (particularly as expounded in 
John 1) somewhat mystifying. But when once 
the meaning is grasped, the sense of strain in 
calling Christ himself the Word is lost in the 
appropriateness of the symbol along the lines 
just indicated. Moreover, to call Christ himself 
the Word of God has this advantage: that it 
emphasizes the point already insisted on so 

much, that the supreme source and norm of 
Christian truth are not words written down and 
preserved between the covers of a book (impor- 
tant as these are, for the reasons which have 
been given) , but Christ who is the living Word. 

It was much later in the history of Christian 
thought that the tendency arose to equate the 
Scriptures with the Word of God. The tendency 
was especially manifest in Protestant circles 
after the Reformation, though it should be 
noted that in these circles the phrase the "Word 
of God" was also used in the New Testament 
sense indicated above, as a study of the various 
confessions shows. It is noteworthy that Calvin 
never identified Scripture with the Word of 
God, It is broadly true to say that in the Protes- 
tant tradition the New Testament usage of the 
phrase is preserved alongside the increasingly 
dominant usage of it to indicate the Scriptures 
as such, the two usages not being very clearly 
related to one another. 

It follows from this brief inquiry that it 
would not be in the least contrary to Scripture 
itself but rather in harmony with it, nor would 
it be contrary to anything essential in the Chris- 
tian faith, if we ceased altogether to speak of 
the Scriptures as the Word of God, and if we 
reserved the phrase, as the New Testament does, 
for God's great saving act of revelation in Christ 
and for the gospel message proclaiming it to 

However, the course of thought which has 
been pursued in this article may perhaps be 
taken to afford sufficient ground for adhering 
to what has become the Protestant tradition of 
speaking of the Bible as the Word of God, 
though it at the same time defines the sense in 
which we may do so. For we have maintained 
that the Scriptures do enter indispensably into 
that revealing and saving activity of God in the 
incarnate Redeemer and in the gospel message 
concerning him, which is what the symbol of 
the Word of God properly denotes. God, as it 
were, continually takes the written word of the 
Bible up into his own living Word, so that it 
becomes vitally one, though not identical, with 
it. To speak of the Scriptures as the Word of 
God, for all the misrepresentation and misuse 
to which such a usage is admittedly exposed, 
does at least forbid us to minimize or overlook 
this vital union and its necessity. Nor, it must 
be emphasized again, is this indispensable 
union of the Scriptures with the saving Word 
of God in Christ and in the gospel message im- 
paired in the least by the fact that we must use 
our own best knowledge and judgment to in- 
terpret them. On the contrary, our freedom to 
do this is used by God, in his patience and wis- 
dom, to turn the littera scripta into a living 



encounter with us as persons, whom he must 
save as persons, if we are to be saved at all. 

D. The Bible as the Authoritative Basis of 
Preaching. The proclamation of the gospel 
through preaching has from the beginning been 
recognized to be an indispensable factor in 
God's saving activity toward men in Christ. 
This necessity of preaching arises primarily out 
of the nature of the gospel itself as a message 
concerning God's coming into the world in a 
historic event, a historic Incarnation. An event 
can become known only by being borne witness 
to, by being proclaimed, by the story being told. 
Nobody can come to the knowledge of an event 
by his own reflection, by excogitation. And if 
the significance of the event is that in it God 
comes to encounter men as persons in the chal- 
lenge and the succor of redeeming love, then 
another reason for preaching can be seen: 
namely, that preaching is in a superlative degree 
the deliberate challenge of one person to an- 
other, the encounter of one person with an- 
other. God takes the human personal encounter 
involved in bearing witness to the Event up 
into his own personal encounter with men 
through the Event. Here also he makes the 
human word vitally one, though not identical, 
with the divine Word. Once again the appropri- 
ateness of the symbol "Word" to indicate the 
total divine activity in Christ toward men be- 
comes apparent. 25 

It follows from this that preaching in its 
essential idea is not necessarily required to be 
based upon scriptural texts or passages. All that 
is required is that it should be, in whatever 
form is appropriate to the occasion, a bearing 
witness to, a setting forth of, the Word of the 
gospel, the Word which is Christ. However, this 
requirement, when taken along with all that has 
been said concerning the part played by Scrip- 
ture in mediating the Word of God, does make 
the deliberate yoking of the preacher's message 
to the content of the Scripture indispensable to 
the effective prosecution of his task, whether or 
not in fact he starts from, or indeed makes any 
explicit reference to, a scripture text or passage. 
The long tradition of the church that preaching 
shall as a rule be "from the Scriptures" is there- 
fore justified. But, of course, by the same argu- 
ment it must be genuinely "from the Scrip- 
tures." The danger earlier referred to is always 
present, that even when the preacher does 
"take a text," he fails really to submit his mind 
to it, but rather reads into it contemporary con- 

5 For a further exposition of this see Farmer, The 
Servant of the Word. 

ceptions and beliefs, using the scripture words 
merely as a perch on which his own ideas, like 
a lot of twittering birds, may alight and preen 

The basing of preaching on Scripture imparts 
to it a weight and authority which the preacher 
in himself could not hope to command. This 
authority, it must be insisted once more, is not 
of the external, overriding kind; always it makes 
itself felt through the testimonium spiritus 
sancti internum working through the quickened 
insight of the hearer. But it is nevertheless a 
real authority. It derives from the inherent and 
proved power of the Scriptures to disturb the 
heart of a man with a renewed sense of sinful- 
ness and need, to challenge him with a sense of 
the seriousness of the issues which are at stake 
in human existence, to solemnize him with a 
sense of the living God coming to him in the 
majestic person of the Redeemer. It derives too 
from the fact that Scripture comes to the hearer 
as an inseparable part of the total life and wit- 
ness of the Christian church, and so carries with 
it the authority of the church's agelong experi- 
ence and testimony. By taking his stand upon 
the Bible and preaching thence, the preacher 
utters the prayer, and expresses the faith, that 
the thin, shallow trickle of his own words will 
be taken up into the living Word of him, con- 
cerning whom it was said that his voice was "as 
the sound of many waters." 

V. Selected Bibliography 

BRUNNER, EMIL. Revelation and Reason, tr. Olive 

Wyon. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1946. 
CUNLIFFE-JONES, HUBERT. The Authority of the 

Biblical Revelation. London: James Clarke & Co., 

DODD, C. H. The Authority of the Bible. New York: 

Harper & Bros., 1929. 
. The Bible Today. New York: The Macmil- 

lan Co., 1947. 
DUGMORE, C. W., ed. The Interpretation of the 

Bible. London: Society for Promoting Christian 

Knowledge, 1944. 
LILLEY, A. L, Religion and Revelation. New York: 

The Macrnillan Co., 1932. 

PHYTHIAN-ADAMS, W. J. The People and the Pres- 
ence. London: Oxford University Press, 1942. 
RICHARDSON, ALAN. Christian Apologetics. New 

York: Harper & Bros., 1947. 
ROBINSON, H. WHEELER. Redemption and Revelation 

in the Actuality of History. New York: Harper 

and Bros., 1942. 
. Inspiration and Revelation in the Old 

Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946. 
ROWLEY, H. H. The Relevance of the Bible. New 

York: The Macrnillan Co., 1944. 




I. The Christian Inheritance of the Hebrew Scrip- 
II. Growth of the Hebrew Wiiiings 

III. The Word Canon 

IV. The Various Witnesses of the Canon 

A. Hebrew Scriptures 

B. The Hellenistic Bible 

C. The Samaritan Pentateuch 

D. Ben Sirach (ca. 180 B.C.) 

E. Simeon ben Shetach (ca. 75 B.C) 

F. The Books of Maccabees (ca. 90-50 B.C.) 

G. Philo Judaeus (ca. A.D. 40) 

H. The New Testament (ca. A.D. 50-150) 
J. Josephus (ca. A.D. 100) 
K. II Esdras (IV Ezra, ca AD. 90-120) 
L. The Rabbinical Tradition 

Readers of the Bible are usually inclined to 
take for granted the contents of the Book as it 
comes to them in its printed form, without 
thinking to ask why it contains just so many 
books, arranged in what seems to be an invari- 
able order. Some readers are aware that in cer- 
tain churches lessons are at times read from the 
Apocrypha, which, however, are not contained 
in most of the printed editions they see, but 
why this should be they do not know. The 
answer is that the various churches recognize a 
canon of Scripture which decides for them what 
books are to be included or excluded and in 
what order they are to be arranged. 

I. The Christian Inheritance of the Hebrew 

Part of the inheritance of Christianity from 
Judaism was a scripture. Jesus in his preaching 
constantly referred to this scripture, and the 
disciples followed him in this practice. They 
accepted as a religious fact which directly con- 
cerned them the existence among the Jews of a 
body of writings received as sacred and authori- 

This body of writings did not profess to in- 
clude all the religious books that had appeared 
during the history of the Jewish people. It did 
not include all the religious documents which 
were in circulation among the Jews at that 

M. The Apostolic Fathers 

N. Melito of Sardis (ca, 170) 

O. Origen (185-254) 

P. Athanasms (365) 

Q. Jerome (329-420) 

R. The Eastern Churches 

1. The Syriac-Speaking Church 

2. The Armenian Church 

3. The Abyssinian Church 

4. The Coptic Church 
V. Conclusion 

A. Preparation for Canonization 

B. Official Canonization 

C. Resistance to Official Canonization 
VI. Selected Bibliography 

period. It was a body of writings which had 
been brought together by a process of selection, 
given an authority not possessed by their other 
religious literature, and invested with a sanctity 
which set it apart as in some particular way 
connected with the official religious life of the 

In this there was nothing unique. We find 
the same factors at work among other peoples 
producing the sacred books of other religions. 
Save in such cases as the Manichaean scriptures 
or the Qur*an f which were produced in con- 
scious imitation of an earlier canonical scrip- 
ture, we find that the "scripture" of a religion 
consists of a body of writings of different age 
and authorship, formed by a gradual process of 
selection, and little by little acquiring sanctity 
and authority. The writings assembled in such 
sacred books are of various kinds, some histor- 
ical, some didactic, some hortatory, some per- 
haps magical, but they gain their authority 
because the community feels that in them is 
enshrined something that is of vital significance 
for the practice of the religion whose sacred 
books they are. 

When New Testament writers use such 
phrases as iv ra?q ypa<j>a?c,, or ypaq>ai fiyiai, or 
(TCC) tepoc ypd^jjocra, and Jewish writers such as 
Josephus, Philo, and the author of I Maccabees, 
speak of ai tepai ptpXoi, or TOC pi(3Xia TCC <5cyia, 



or TOC tep& ypocnnccTcc, they are testifying to the 
existence of such a collection among the Jews. 
The same idea of a well-recognized collection 
is implicit in the Talmudic expression miqra*, 
"reading," used of writings publicly read in the 
synagogue services. The Christians took over 
from the Jews this collection of "sacred writ- 
ings," and later formed an additional collection 
of their own, which in turn came to acquire 
sanctity and authority. With the development 
of the church, and the use of these documents 
as standards of doctrine and discipline, Chris- 
tian writers began to make use of the Greek 
word KCCVCOV in a technical sense, and to speak 
of a canon of scripture. 

Though the use of the word "canon" in con- 
nection with an authoritative body of scripture 
is of Christian origin, the conception which it 
crystallized in a convenient technical term was 
in operation long before any precise term was 
used. We have the conception wherever in a 
religious community there comes into existence 
a collection of writings marked off as especially 
sacred and authoritative, and so in modern 
books we speak of the Zoroastrian canon or the 
Taoist canon, and distinguish in Buddhism be- 
tween the Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese 
canons. In none of these religions is the term 
used in the native sources, but the conception 
is there. When in any religion the stage is 
reached where the community is conscious that 
the authentic voice of religious authority is no 
longer heard, the writings which had been pro- 
duced in that past in which such an authentic 
voice had been heard and recognized tend to 
be marked out by that fact and so to be set 
aside as the writings sacred to the community. 
This would not preclude the possibility of 
adding to them at some future time other writ- 
ings in which once again the sure voice of reli- 
gious authority was heard, nor indeed of the 
adding to them of historical records, or memo- 
rials of the past of the community, without 
which much of the meaning of "the word of 
prophecy" might be lost. Furthermore, the con- 
ception is not incompatible with some diversity 
of opinion as to the extent of such a corpus of 
sacred writings, as to what should be included 
and what omitted. 

While Christian theologians may recognize 
in the process of scriptural canonization the 
official act of the church and the providential 
work of the Holy Spirit (see article, "The 
Bible: Its Significance and Authority," pp. 3- 
31), historians can merely state that a canon 
of scripture is not something given, but some- 
thing humanly devised. From the historical 
point of view the canon is the result of human 
decision as to which among the religious writ- 
ings existing in a community are those in which 

it recognizes the authentic voice of religious 
authority speaking to man. It is likewise clear 
that canonization is something entirely apart 
from the process of collection, and that it is not 
necessarily connected with the public use of a 
body of writings. We have ample evidence of 
the collection and use in a community of reli- 
gious writings which have never become part of 
any canonical collection of scripture. In gen- 
eral it is the effort to preserve the community 
from some threat to its religious life, whether 
from heresy or false teaching or some such 
calamity, that leads it to place the seal of its 
approval on certain writings to the exclusion of 
others, already collected and in use, as being 
those alone in which it recognizes the authentic 
voice of authority. It is possible to think of a 
"vider and a narrower sense of the word "canon- 
ization." It may be argued that a collection of 
writings may come into use in a religious com- 
munity and by custom and general recognition 
come to be regarded as of religious authority, 
without there ever having been any formal pro- 
nouncement as to its canonization. In this wider 
sense we could speak of a growing canon, as at 
different periods we find different groups of 
writings attaining an authoritative position. In 
the stricter sense, however, canonization means 
a definite formulation whereby a body of writ- 
ings is set aside because those writings are rec- 
ognized as authoritative. 

II. Growth of the Hebrew Writings 

The story of the growth of Hebrew literature 
is in no fundamental way different from that of 
the growth of literature among other peoples. 
Everywhere the beginnings of national litera- 
ture are oral. As the people attain to literacy 
there is the tendency to put this national litera- 
ture the tales of origins, the annals of the 
kings, the deeds of the heroic age, the oracles 
of the shrines, the priestly liturgies, the popular 
religious songs, the wisdom of the sages, and so 
forth into written form. These types are com- 
mon to many peoples in the ancient world. 
Among the Israelites we can recognize several 
such types of literary endeavor slowly develop- 
ing to form a body of writings preserved in a 
fixed form: (a) fragments of early song; (6) 
archives and chronicles; (c) laws; (d) prophe- 
cies; (e) history; (/) cult books; (g) wisdom 
books. Parallels to all of these types can be 
found in the literature of the surrounding peo- 
ples. Not all the literature that was produced in 
ancient Israel is contained in the Old Testa- 
ment as we know it, nor even in the wider range 
of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books. 
Some of it was produced as early as the tenth 
century B.C., and some of it as late as the last 
century before the Christian Era. Some of it 



has survived only in very fragmentary form. 
Most of it is anonymous, some of it pseudony- 
mous, and even that which appears under a 
definite name is commonly found to be inter- 
polated with material from other sources. Some 
of it is definitely religious, and some of it would 
not strike us at first as being religious literature 
at all. Two main questions should therefore be 
asked: How and why did the various books of 
the present Old Testament come to be con- 
sidered as having such religious authority as to 
be included in a canon of scripture, and how 
and why did other books come to be excluded 
from that canon? 

III. The Word Canon 

The Greek word KOCVCOV comes from a Semitic 
word meaning "reed." The reed was one of 
man's earliest measuring instruments, so that 
KOCVCOV, whose earliest meaning in Greek was 
"straight rod/* came to designate specifically 
"measuring rod" such as was used by carpenters, 
and then metaphorically, like the Latin norma 
or regula, came to stand for that which regu- 
lates, rules, or serves as a norm or pattern 
for other things. Later in literary criticism the 
Alexandrian grammarians referred to their col- 
lection of ancient writings as a KCCVCOV, because 
this collection was the standard for pure lan- 
guage and the model for composition. From 
this, by an easy step, carne its use in ethics for 
the standard of good living. It is in this ethical 
sense that the word is used in the New Testa- 
ment (Gal. 6:16; II Cor. 10:13-16) as the rule 
for conduct or doctrine, and in the early church 
for the "rule of faith and conduct." As the rule 
of faith was based on the scriptures we find the 
word associated with scripture as early as 
Origen. According to the usage of the early 
ecclesiastical writers, however, there is some 
confusion among three meanings of the words 
"canonical scripture." Sometimes it seems to 
mean that the books were constituted into a 
standard, that is, they were the KCCVCOV by which 
other things were to be judged. Sometimes the 
idea seems to be that they were books which 
corresponded to a standard, namely, the stand- 
ard of faith. And sometimes it would appear to 
mean that these are the books which have been 
taken up into an authoritative catalogue. In all 
three cases, however, there is the recognition of 
a definite body of literature considered to be 

IV. The Various Witnesses of the Canon 

While the Christians took over a scripture 
from the Jews, they did not take over any well- 
defined collection. In fact, in the latter part of 
the second century we find a Christian bishop, 
Melito of Sardis, puzzled as to the exact number 

and order of the Old Testament books, and 
undertaking a journey to the East "accurately 
to ascertain" what the truth of the matter 
might be. In the early Christian centuries, in- 
deed, there was some dispute among the Jews 
themselves as to the extent of the canon, though 
Jewish consensus was in favor of the collection 
we have in our Protestant Bible. The earliest 
Christian communities had largely followed 
Alexandrian usage, but after Origen's labors on 
the text, the Greek-speaking churches tended 
to follow the Jewish consensus, and this attitude 
was supported by Jerome. In the Latin-speaking 
churches, however, the authority of Augustine 
drew the communities away from Jerome to 
the wider canon that had been current in Alex- 
andria, and the Greek churches soon followed. 
With the Reformation, the Protestant groups 
swung back again to the Jewish consensus, and, 
in opposition, the Council of Trent formally 
declared in favor of the Alexandrian usage as 
sanctioned by Augustine. 

The question of the extent of the canon can 
thus be approached historically only by con- 
sidering what evidence is available concerning 
the assembling of these writings which were 
considered to have religious authority. 

A. Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew text of 
the Old Testament presents a corpus of writings 
already selected and arranged. There are in it 
some indications of the way in which these 
writings came to be set aside as sacred and 

(a) The law codes in Israel, as those of Ham- 
murabi in Babylon and of Manu in India, were 
placed under religious sanction (Exod. 20:1; 
cf. 24:3-8) , and we have references to the tablets 
on which the law was written being placed in 
association with the ark and especially vener- 
ated. Since it was customary among the sur- 
rounding peoples to deposit at shrines docu- 
ments of an official nature, there is nothing 
improbable in the accounts of Moses (Deut. 
51:9 ), Joshua (24:25-26), and Samuel (I 
Sam. 10:25) writing covenants and laying them 
up at the sanctuary. 

(b) In II Kings 22:3 ff. we read how in the 
reign of Josiah, Hilkiah the high priest came 
upon such a book of law in the sanctuary, the 
reading of which caused great consternation, 
resulting in wide reforms and a solemn cove- 
nant of king and people to abide by the words 
written in this book, which they were conscious 
of not having followed. We have here a clear 
account of a document being regarded as a 

(c) The writings of the later prophets and 
the psalmists show acquaintance with the books 
of their predecessors, and give us good evidence 
that during and after the Exile there were in 



circulation some literary pieces regarded as 
those in which the authentic voice of religious 
authority was heard. 

(d) In the account of the return from the 
Exile we read of how Ezra came with the law of 
his God in his hand (Ezra 7:14, 25), a law 
which he was to administer among the people; 
while in Neh. 8-10 we have an account of how 
the law was read aloud by Ezra in popular as- 
sembly, and solemnly sealed and accepted as 
the authoritative regula for community life. 

In all of this there is no hint of a canon of 
scripture, but there are some of the elements 
out of which such a canon could arise. We find 
writings considered as sacred and tending to be 
collected, though there was no fixed body of 
them, since the Chronicler made use of some 
which were not preserved in the final collection. 
We find the sense of writings being authorita- 
tive as a regula. We find official pronouncement 
of certain writings as authoritative, though what 
Ezra is said to have "canonized" was a body of 
laws, and so not the Pentateuch as we have it, 
which contains much besides law and indeed 
includes material from a time later than that of 
Ezra. The canon of scripture had not yet come 
into existence. 

B. The Hellenistic Bible. As early as the 
third century B.C. the Jews of the Diaspora 
needed a Greek version of their religious writ- 
ings, and finally came to have a Hellenistic 
Bible known to us as the Septuagint. Different 
parts of it were translated at different times and 
under different circumstances, but we have 
actual fragments of it from as early as the 
middle of the second century B.C., and consider- 
able manuscripts from the fourth century A.D., 
whereas we have no considerable manuscripts of 
the Hebrew Bible earlier than the ninth cen- 
tury A.D. The Hellenistic Bible contains all the 
writings that are in our Hebrew Bible, though 
it arranges the material somewhat differently 
and adds some material not found in any He- 
brew manuscripts of the Bible. 

The additional material in the Septuagint 
consists of (a) translations of other Hebrew 
writings, e.g., Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sirach) , 
Judith, I Maccabees; (b) works composed in 
Greek, e.g., I Esdras, Tobit, Wisdom of Solo- 
mon, Baruch, II Maccabees; (c) supplements 
in Greek to certain of the Hebrew writings, 
e.g., the additions to Esther, Susanna, the Song 
of the Three Children, and Bel and the Dragon, 
which are supplements to Daniel; (d) a fringe 
of writings which appear in some manuscripts 
but not in others, e.g., Prayer of Manasses, III 
and IV Maccabees. It is possible that such books 
as Enoch, II Esdras (IV Ezra) , the Testaments 
of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Psalms of 
Solomon, also once belonged to this fringe. 

The witness of the Septuagint is important 
on account of its age and because it shows quite 
clearly that there was as yet no fixed canon. It 
treats its extra writings as on a level with 
those in the Hebrew Bible, and in its manner 
of translating suggests clearly that its translators 
were not working on a text which they con- 
sidered as fixed ne varietur. Its fringe also re- 
veals the fact that there was as yet no certainty 
as to the exact range of books that should be 
included in the collection. 

C. The Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samari- 
tans have a Pentateuch, in their own script, 
which for the most part agrees closely with the 
Pentateuch in the Hebrew Bible, though it has 
certain peculiarities of its own, and certain 
curious resemblances to the text of the Septua- 
gint. We have no actual evidence as to when 
and where this text was formed, but it is a 
reasonable inference that the Samaritans pro- 
vided themselves with such a text after their 
breach with the Jews. It is furthermore reason- 
able to infer that at the time they made their 
copy the Pentateuch was a writing not only 
recognized officially as authoritative but already 
approaching a fixed form. The question is the 
date at which the Samaritan copy was made. 

The usual assumption is that it was made 
somewhere around 432 B.C., when Manasseh, 
the son-in-law of Sanballat, went off to found a 
community in Samaria, as related in Neh. 13:28 
and Josephus Antiquities XI. 7. 2; 8. 2. Josephus 
himself, however, dates this event in the days 
of Alexander the Great, and though there is a 
notorious confusion in Josephus at this point, 
he may be right about the Gerizim temple dat- 
ing from 332, and that may have been the date 
of the copying of their Pentateuch. Recent 
scholarship, however, is inclined to think that 
the real schism between the peoples did not take 
place till Hasmonean times, when the Gerizim 
temple was destroyed in 128 B.C. The script of 
the Samaritan Pentateuch, its close connections 
at many points with the Septuagint, and its 
even closer agreement with our present Hebrew 
text, all suggest a date about 12 B.C. 

In any case, the Samaritan Pentateuch, while 
it constitutes evidence that the Pentateuch, in 
a form not very different from its present one, 
was at that time a document having official 
sanction which could be taken over as some- 
thing recognized as authoritative is, however, 
no evidence that there were not other collec- 
tions of writings also in existence which were 
equally regarded as authoritative, but which the 
Samaritans felt no need to take over. 

D. Ben Sirach (ca. 180 B.C.). The Wisdom 
of Jesus ben Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, seems to 
have been written in Hebrew about 180 B.C., 
and fragments of the text in the original lan- 



guage have been recovered. In its complete 
form, however, it exists only in the Greek trans- 
lation made in Alexandria about 130 B.C. by 
the author's grandson. Ben Sirach seems to 
regard himself as writing a genuine continua- 
tion of the Prophets and of the books of 
Wisdom (Ecclus. 24:32-34) , and to have no con- 
sciousness of the existence of a scripture collec- 
tion that is closed and to which no additions 
can be made. He knows of the Law as something 
quite apart and to be regarded in a very special 
way, but whether the Law as he knows it is to 
be identified with our Pentateuch is something 
which cannot be determined. In chs. 44 and 49 
he makes a survey of the national heroes, and 
it is significant that he mentions them in a 
particular order. In chs. 44-45 he follows the 
Pentateuch; in 46:1-12, Joshua and Judges; in 
vss. 13-20, Samuel. Ch. 47 begins with a list 
drawn from the books of Kings and Chronicles, 
and this combination continues to 49:6. In 49:7 
we meet with Jeremiah, in vss. 8-10, Ezekiel and 
the Twelve, while vss. 11-13 depend on Ezra- 
Nehemiah, and vss. 14-16 may indicate a 
knowledge of some of the books on the fringe 
of the Septuagint. There is no mention of 
Daniel, Esther, or Ezra, but Ben Sirach knows 
of certain praises of David (47:8), songs, prov- 
erbs, and parables of Solomon (47:17), and 
prophecies of Isaiah (48:22 if.) . He may^ be 
merely reproducing a list from oral tradition, 
but his order suggests that he is using source 
material from a collection very similar in ar- 
rangement to that in the Hellenistic Bible, a 
collection which is not yet on the same level of 
authority as the Law, but is in a sense parallel 
to it. 

The witness of the grandson who translated 
the book is more definite. He composed a pro- 
logue to his translation in which he thrice 
refers to the sacred books of his people: 

(a) Since many great things have been communi- 
cated to us by the Law and the Prophets and 
the others who followed in their steps 

(6) My grandfather, Jesus, having long devoted 
himself to the reading of the Law and the 
Prophets, and the other hooks of our fathers, 
and having gained great familiarity with them, 
was led himself to write somewhat. . . . 

(c) And not only these things, but the Law itself, 
and the prophecies, and the rest of the books, 
have no small difference when spoken in their 

Here we have quite definite testimony to the 
existence of collections of writings which are 
regarded with particular reverence as having 
been handed down from the fathers. Moreover, 
there are three groups of these, the Law, the 
Prophets, and the other Writings, which is sig- 

nificant inasmuch as in our Hebrew Bible the 
various books are arranged in three groups 
labeled the Law, the Prophets, and the Holy 
Writings (Hagiographa) . Yet this writer does 
not feel that there is anything to hinder his 
grandfather's work from being added to the 
religious literature of his people. As a matter of 
fact, it is claimed that there is Maccabean ma- 
terial in our Hebrew Bible which was written 
later than the time of Sirach. 

E. Simeon ben Shetach (ca. 75 B.C.). If the 
evidence of the Talmud can be trusted, this 
celebrated Pharisee, who lived in the first half 
of the first century B.C., quoted Eccl. 7:12 with 
the introductory formula, "it is written/' a 
phrase used only in quoting scripture; quoted 
Prov. 23:25 with the words "scripture saith," 
and perhaps quoted Sirach the same way. If 
this is not just a case of later usage being at- 
tributed to Simeon, it means that certain books 
in the Hagiographa were being quoted as 
scripture at the beginning of the first century 
B.C., and that perhaps Sirach was included 
among them. 

F. The Books of Maccabees (ca. 90*50 B.C.).- 
Our interest in I Maccabees, which seems to 
have been written in Hebrew somewhere be- 
tween 90 and 70 B.C., is that it depicts the whole 
Maccabean struggle as due to zeal for the Law. 
For this author and his contemporaries the Law 
was not only a regula but something for which 
men would fight and die. He knew the Law as 
something in written form and in the hands of 
the people, for in 1:56 he tells us that whenever 
the officials of Antiochus found copies of the 
book of the Law they tore them up and burned 
them, and in 3:48 he says that when the people 
gathered together at Mizpeh "they unrolled 
the roll of the Law." Whether this Law coin- 
cided with our Pentateuch we have no means of 
knowing. Beyond the Law he shows acquaint- 
ance with stories from Exodus, Joshua, Judges, 
Samuel, Kings, and he is familiar with the story 
of Daniel. These he may have known, however, 
from oral tradition, though the words in 12:9, 
"We find encouragement in the sacred books 
that are in our keeping," suggest that other 
sacred writings in addition to the Law were in 
circulation among the people. He seems to 
quote from Ps. 79:3 in 7:17, and has remi- 
niscences o other psalms and of Jeremiah. 
There is no evidence, however, that he knew 
the Psalter and the Prophets as we have them. 

II Maccabees is a Greek writing apparently 
of Alexandrian origin, dating from the middle 
of the first century B.C., or maybe earlier, and 
while it is so rhetorical as to be of very little 
use for historical purposes, its author's ideas of 
scripture probably reflect those of his milieu. 
As to the extent of scripture known to him, we 



note that: (a) the law of Moses is to him funda- 
mental to the whole social and religious life of 
his people; (b) he is acquainted with the nar- 
ratives of Kings; (c) he is familiar with the 
custom of singing psalms, though we have no 
evidence that he used our Psalter; (d) Jere- 
miah is to him a writing prophet; (e) he is 
familiar with the stories of Nehemiah and of 
Esther. As to his evidence in regard to collected 
scripture we may note that: (a) in 8:23, when 
Judas was assembling and encouraging his fol- 
lowers to resist Nicanor, after dividing them 
he "read out of the holy book," which obviously 
must be some scripture; (b) in 15:9, Judas 
encouraged his men "from the Law and the 
Prophets," which are clearly regarded as valu- 
able documents of national importance, and of 
course may be the "book" of 8:23; (c) in 2:13- 
15, we have the following passage: "The same 
things were reported also in the writings and 
memoirs about Nehemiah, how, in forming a 
library, he gathered together the books about 
the kings and prophets, and those of David, and 
epistles of kings about gifts. In like manner 
also Judas gathered together for us all those 
[books] that had been scattered because of the 
war that had come to pass, and they are with us." 

A great deal more has at times been drawn 
from this passage than it will warrant, but one 
cannot resist the conclusion that we have here 
a more advanced conception of a canonical col- 
lection than we have met hitherto. The "holy 
book" of 8:23 is clearly a writing held sacred, 
which is one prime requisite of canonicity. The 
author uses the phrase "the Law and the Proph- 
ets" precisely as does the New Testament, and 
he probably knew these as two collections, 
though it does not follow that they included 
what we now have in these sections in our He- 
brew Bible. The reference to the work of 
Nehemiah and Judas also suggests that there 
existed at that time a collection of "writings" 
of the type that we know in the Hebrew Bible, 
though there is no reference to canonization, 
nor can we assume that what he meant by 
"David" or "kings and prophets" coincided 
with what we mean by them. 

G. Philo Judaeus (ca. A.D. 40). Being an 
Alexandrian, Philo normally used the Septua- 
gint, though he seems to have known the He- 
brew text. His evidence is to be dated about 
A.D. 40, and the free and easy way in which he 
deals with scripture is clear evidence that to 
him the text is not sacrosanct, though it may be 
sacred. He quotes from or refers to every book 
of the Hebrew Bible save Ezekiel, Daniel, Ruth, 
Esther, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Song of 
Songs. For him the Law is definitely our Penta- 
teuch, and he actually refers to four of its five 
parts by their names. All scripture, however, not 

only the Law, is inspired, and he speaks of 
"most holy scriptures," "sacred oracles," "sacred 
word," and so forth, in a way that leaves no 
doubt that these were writings in collected 
form having a definite place of religious author- 
ity in the community. It is significant that he 
never quotes from the extra books of the Hel- 
lenistic Bible, or from those which were dis- 
puted in the rabbinical schools. 

The commonly adduced passage from The 
Contemplative Life III, which makes Philo 
bear witness to the threefold division of Law, 
Prophets, and other writings, is no work of 
Philo, but a tractate of the third or fourth 
century A.D. 

H. The New Testament (ca. AJD. 50-150). 
There are abundant references to scripture in 
the New Testament. That these scripture books 
were regarded as sacred is evidenced not only 
by the fact that they are called "holy writings" 
(Rom. 1:2; II Tim. 3:15), and referred to as 
God-given (II Tim. 3:16; Matt. 22:43; Acts 
4:25) , but also by the fact that their character 
is such that it is sufficient to say "it is written" 
(Matt. 4:6; Gal. 3:13; etc.). That they were 
regarded as authoritative is equally clear from 
the way in which appeal is made to them 
(Matt. 21:42; Rom. 11:2). This authority ap- 
plies to all parts of the Old Testament. In Heb. 
3:7 it refers to Exodus and Numbers, but in 
Heb. 10:15 the reference is to Jeremiah, in Acts 
2:16 to Joel, in Rom. 9:25 to Hosea, while in 
Acts 4:25; 13:34; Heb. 13:5 it is to the Psalms. 
Yet here again, scripture though sacred is not 
sacrosanct. Quotations are given inaccurately, 
passages from different books are run together 
in one quotation, and passages are given as 
quotations from scripture which cannot be 
found in our Old Testament, not even the extra 
books, and are best regarded as Old Testament 
reminiscences (e.g., Luke 11:49; John 7:38; 
Eph. 5:14; Jas. 4:5) . As to the extent of scrip- 
ture, we find that the Law is scripture in a 
special sense, so that it may stand for the whole 
Old Testament, and the Psalms and Isaiah may 
be quoted as the Law. The Law and the Proph- 
ets are frequently mentioned together and are 
apparently of equal authority, both seeming to 
be read regularly in the synagogues (Acts 13: 
15) . In Luke 24:44 we find the Psalms on a level 
with the Prophets and the Law. Quotations or 
reminiscences of all the books in the Old Testa- 
ment have been recognized, except from Oba- 
diah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, 
Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehe- 
miah, and Chronicles. There are also references 
to or reminiscences of I Maccabees, Enoch, 
Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the Martyrdom of 
Isaiah, the Assumption of Moses, and the Apoc- 
alypse of Elias. These writings, both of the 



regular Hellenistic Bible and of those on the 
fringe, seem for the most part to be known as 
written sources, and to be treated in no funda- 
mental way differently from the books of the 
Hebrew Bible. The writers of the New Testa- 
ment could thus not have been conscious of 
the existence of any fixed canon of such writ- 
ings. The special treatment accorded to the 
Law would suggest that it was recognized as 
having some special sanctity and authority, but 
not that its authority was different in nature 
from that of the other books. The evidence fre- 
quently adduced to prove that the New Testa- 
ment knows the tripartite division of our He- 
brew Bible is insufficient to prove this. 

The evidence of the New Testament thus 
points to the existence of a recognized collec- 
tion, but one wider than that of the Hebrew 
Bible. Its quotations are most commonly, but 
not exclusively, from the Hellenistic Bible. It 
regards scripture as sacred but not yet sacro- 
sanct, though it treats it as something that has 
long been held as sacred, and is apparently all 
of equal inspiration, not, as sometimes held, of 
three degrees of inspiration. 

/. Josephus (ca. A.D. 100). The witness of 
Josephus is contemporary with that of parts of 
the New Testament, and like its writers, he 
prefers the Hellenistic Bible, utilizing Esdras, 
I Maccabees, and the additions to Esther as 
readily as he does the books of the Hebrew 
Bible. It is in his Against Apion I. 8 that he 
makes his important contribution to the ques- 
tion of the canon: 

There are not with us myriads of books disagree- 
ing and contradicting one another, but only two- 
and-twenty books containing the record of all time, 
and which rightly are believed in. Of these, five are 
those of Moses, which contain the laws and the 
tradition as to the origin of mankind till his death. 
This period falls little short of three thousand years. 
From the death of Moses till Artaxerxes, who was 
king of the Persians after Xerxes, the prophets who 
came after Moses wrote of the things that came to 
pass in their times, in thirteen books. The remain- 
ing four [books] contain hymns to God and maxims 
of life for men. From Artaxerxes to our own time 
all things have been recorded, but not esteemed 
worthy of like credit with those which preceded 
them, because of there not being an exact succession 
of prophets. There is practical proof of how we 
treat these same writings, for though so long a time 
has now elapsed, no one has dared either to add to 
them or to make any change. But it is natural to all 
Jews straightway from the day of birth to consider 
these as the teachings of God, and to stand by them, 
and if needful gladly to die on their behalf. 

It is immediately clear that Josephus speaks 
with two voices. As a historian presenting his 
case to a Hellenistic public, he uses the whole 

range of writings in the Hellenistic Bible, claim- 
ing that the whole history of his people is con- 
tained in TOC tepd ypocnuorrcc (Preface to Antiqui- 
ties III) , and that he has written his history 6q 
at Icpai pif&oi rapi TTOCVTCOV exoucnv TTJV <5cvocypaqjT)v 
(Antiquities XX. 11. 2), but he knows that 
there is a narrower acceptation of the range of 
scripture, and when speaking as a pious Jew, 
he confines scripture to the range of the twenty- 
two books in the Hebrew Bible. With regard 
to this narrower range we notice that: 

(a) He considers the process of selection 
among the writings as having already come to 
an end, the community possessing a collection 
of sacred writings limited in number, to which 
no further additions can be made. Moreover, 
the textual form of this collection is fixed, so 
that no one would dare to make any change 

(b) The writings in this collection have more 
than human authority, must be believed in and 
stood by, and if necessary one must be prepared 
to die for them. 

(c) A principle had governed the selection 
of these writings, for only such were included 
as were considered to have been written in past 
days when the genuine voice of prophecy could 
still be heard. Josephus defines the period as 
from Moses to Artaxerxes, and apparently re- 
gards the historical works as written by the 

(d) While his division of the parts is the 
Hellenistic division, he nevertheless clearly 
recognizes a tripartite division of scripture 
law, prophets, hymns and maxims. 

K. II Esdras (IV Ezra, ca. A.D. 90*120). The 
main portion of this writing seems to date from 
about A.D. 90, and in it the Law is the essential 
part of scripture, though it knows of Daniel, 
Enoch, Job, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and enumer- 
ates the Twelve in the Septuagint order. Ch. 14, 
however, is a later insertion, perhaps to be 
dated at A.D. 120, and in vss. 1948 we have a 
strange story of Esdras complaining that the 
law of Moses has been burned so that no man 
knows what things were done of God, and he 
prays that the Holy Spirit may come upon him 
so that he may write out again the things that 
were in the law. He is instructed to go into 
seclusion for forty days, taking many tablets 
and five good scribes. Then after drinking from 
a mystic cup, he spends the days dictating to 
the scribes some ninety-four books, the first 
twenty-four of which he is to publish, and the 
other seventy to reserve as occult books which 
will be shown only to the wise. This story had 
immense popularity in the Christian church, 
but its interest to us is that it testifies to the 
fact that there was a collection of twenty-four 
writings recognized as having authority and as 


such in public religious use, in contradistinction 
to other writings which, while equally religious, 
were not considered proper for such public use. 
The number twenty-four is interesting, as it is 
the number of the books in the Hebrew Bible 
as against the twenty-two of Josephus. 

L. The Rabbinical Tradition. The Mishnah 
of the two Talmuds might be expected to con- 
tain the rabbinical tradition concerning their 
canon of scripture, but though the Mishnah was 
assembled by R. Yehuda Hannasi at the end of 
the second century A.D. (between 180 and 200) , 
we can never be sure that in any given passage 
there has not been later interpolation, so that 
its witness to the canon can be consulted only 
under reserves. In the Mishnah there are quota- 
tions from every book of the Hebrew Bible save 
Nehemiah, Daniel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habak- 
kuk, and Zephaniah. The tripartite division of 
the writings is clearly recognized, though all 
parts are equally scripture. The extent of the 
collection, however, was not decided, for there 
was still discussion as to whether certain writ- 
ings should be included or rejected, though the 
Mishnah itself, while it records the discussion, 
is satisfied that the disputed books are true 
scripture. From the Gemara we gather that in 
some quarters the discussion regarding certain 
books was still dragging on in the fourth 

In the classical passage Yadayim 3:5 there is 
evidence of a dispute over the inclusion of Ec- 
clesiastes and Song of Songs in the list of 
accepted books, and from the Gemara we learn 
that some did not admit Proverbs, Esther, Ezek- 
iel, and Ruth, though the Mishnah includes 
them all. Whether the rabbis also included any 
of the books in the wider list of the Hellenistic 
Bible is both affirmed and denied. Ben Sirach 
certainly seems to be quoted as scripture in 
Erubin 65a and Baba Kamma 926, and the 
very violence of Akiba's language against Ben 
Sirach in Yer. Sanh. X. 28fl shows that many in 
his day must have been using it as if it were 
accepted scripture. In Origen's time the book 
of Baruch was also apparently recognized, at 
least in some rabbinical circles, for he includes 
it in his list of the twenty-two books recognized 
as making up the Hebrew Bible. In Baba 
Bathra I4b we have a Baraita which may date 
from as early as A.D. 180, and which, besides 
taking for granted in all its discussion the 
tripartite division into Law, Prophets, and 
Hagiographa, contains statements concerning 
the order of the books in these latter groups: 

Our masters teach the order of the Prophets is 
this: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, 
Ezekiel, Isaiah, the Twelve, . . . and the order of the 
Hagiographa is this: Ruth, the book of Psalms, Job 

and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Lamenta- 
tions, Daniel and the roll of Esther, Ezra and 

Here we have the order of our Hebrew Bible, 
and as the early form of these writings would 
have been on individual rolls where the order 
is of no importance, this Baraita suggests the 
beginning of arrangements in codex form, or 
at least of large rolls, where writings necessarily 
have to be placed in a certain order. 

In the rabbinical discussions over the dis- 
puted books there is constant recurrence of the 
phrase "defiling the hands." The handling of 
books recognized as authoritative scripture 
causes such defilement, whereas that of other 
religious writings does not cause it. There has 
been much discussion concerning the meaning 
of this phrase, but the essential point is that it 
implies a recognition of special sanctity for 
some writings but not for others, and such 
special sanctity is a mark of canonicity. Yadayim 
3:5 indicates the date at which the decision 
was made regarding what writings possessed this 
mark and what writings did not: 

R, Simeon b. Azzai [ca. A.D. 100] said, I have heard 
a tradition from the seventy-two elders, on the day 
when they made R. Eleazar b. Azariah head of the 
college, that the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes both 
defile the hands. 

The reference is to the temporary deposition of 
Gamaliel II from the headship of the "college," 
when Eleazar b. Azariah was elected for a time 
to his place an event that is often referred to 
as "that day." The "college" was sitting at the 
time at Jabneh (Jamnia) , and it seems to have 
been under the brief presidency of Eleazar when 
the influence of Akiba and Joshua was so 
strong that many hitherto undecided points 
were settled. The reference above suggests that 
this question of the disputed books came up at 
that time and a decision was reached concerning 
the extent of the canon. This decision finally 
prevailed in spite of some rumblings of dissent 
which were still heard occasionally in later 
years. This decision is usually dated as about 
A.D. 90, but may have been nearer A.D. 100, and 
we must remember that it was only the decision 
of an "academy" and not an official ratification 
such as that of a "council," even though the 
weight of authority of the "academy" gained 
general acceptance for it. 

M. The Apostolic Fathers. We have no 
scripture lists recorded in any of the works of 
the Apostolic Fathers, but from their writings 
we can perhaps estimate the extent of their 
canon. They quote from or refer to as scrip- 
ture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, 
Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I, II, III, IV 



Kings, I, II Paralipomena, Esther, Job, Psalms, 
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, 
Jonah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Mala- 
chi, II Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Sirach, Wis- 
dom of Solomon, II Esdras (IV Ezra), and 
Enoch. There are no quotations from Ruth, 
Ezra-Nehemiah, Lamentations, Obadiah, Micah, 
or Haggai, nor are there any from Baruch or 
I Maccabees. It is at least notable that out of 
eight Old Testament books from which there is 
no quotation, six are also books not quoted in 
the New Testament. The extra books of the 
Hellenistic Bible, even Enoch, are used with 
apparently no feeling that they are not genuine 
scripture, and in this also the Apostolic Fathers 
are in harmony with the New Testament. 

N. Melito of Sardis (ca. 170). It is somewhat 
curious that the Christian bishop of an impor- 
tant city like Sardis, in the second half of the 
second century, did not know the extent of the 
Jewish canon and undertook a journey to the 
East to discover the truth of the matter. Pos- 
sibly the explanation is that he used the Hel- 
lenistic Bible but was conscious of Jewish criti- 
cism directed against it and wished to learn 
what range of scripture the rabbis accepted. 
The result of his inquiry is recorded by Eusebius 
(Church History IV. 26. 14) in a list commonly 
known as the Canon of Melito: 

When, therefore, I went to the East, and came as 
far as the place where these things were proclaimed 
and done, I accurately ascertained the books of the 
Old Testament, and send them to thee here below. 
The names are as follows: Of Moses, five books 
Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteron- 
omy. Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth. Four of Kings. Two 
of Paralipomena. Psalms of David. Proverbs of 
Solomon and the Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Song of 
Songs, Job. Of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah. Of the 
Twelve Prophets one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. 
From these I have, therefore, made the selections 
which I have divided into six books. 

This order is strange in that it agrees neither 
with the Hebrew nor with the Septuagint 
though it is closer to the Hellenistic usage. That 
Melito should put the disputed Ezekiel along 
with Daniel, and omit Esther altogether, sug- 
gests that he obtained his list from circles aware 
of the disputed position of these books, though 
he does not say that he received it from Jews, 
and he may have been quoting only from an 
Antiochene source. 

O. Origen (185-254). Origen's witness is of 
peculiar significance because he was instructed 
by Jewish teachers. That scripture was recog- 
nized as a body of authoritative religious writ- 
ing to be used as a regula is apparent through- 
out his writings, and the extent of this body of 

authoritative scripture recognized by him is 
quoted by Eusebius Church History VI. 25. 2 
from his exposition of Ps. 1, where, after remark- 
ing that the writings of the Hebrew canon are 
twenty-two according to the number of letters 
in their alphabet, Origen says: 

These twenty-two books, according to the He- 
brews, are as follows: that which is called Genesis, 
but by the Hebrews, from the beginning of the 
book, Bresith, which means "in the beginning." 
Exodus, Welesmoth, which means, "these are the 
names." Leviticus, Waikra, "and he called." Num- 
bers, Anmesphekodeim. Deuteronomy, Elle adde- 
barim, that is, "these are the words." Jesus the son 
of Nave, in Hebrew, Joshua ben Nun. Judges and 
Ruth in one book, with the Hebrews, which they 
call Sophetim. Of Kings: the First and Second, one 
book, with them called Samuel, "the called of God." 
The Third and Fourth of Kings, also in one book 
with them, and called, Wahammelech Dabid, which 
means "and King David." The First and Second 
Book of the Paralipomena, contained in one volume 
with them, and called Dibre Hamaim, which means 
the words, i.e. "the records of days." The First and 
Second of Esdras, in one, called Ezra, that is, "an 
assistant." The Book of Psalms, Sepher Tehillim. 
The Proverbs of Solomon, Misloth. Ecclesiastes, 
Coheleth. The Song of Songs, Sir Hasirim. Isaiah, 
lesaia. Jeremiah, with the Lamentations and his 
Epistle, in one, Jeremiah. Daniel, Daniel. Ezekiel, 
Jeezkel. Job, Job. Esther, also with the Hebrews, 
Esther. Besides these there are also the Maccabees, 
which are inscribed "Sarbeth sarbane el." 

His order is that of the Hellenistic Bible, but 
obviously he had before him the Hebrew text. 
He says the number is twenty-two, but he 
enumerates only twenty-one, so that the omis- 
sion of the Twelve is probably a scribal error. 
Baruch seems to have been included with Jere- 
miah, and it is perhaps significant that Esther 
is mentioned last of all. Maccabees is separated 
from the list but why it should be mentioned 
at all is strange. 

P. Athanasius (365). In the Festal Epistles 
for the year 365 Athanasius gives an enumera- 
tion of the canonical books of the Old Testa- 

According to their order these are the names. First 
Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuter- 
onomy. These are followed by Joshua son of Nave, 
Judges and then Ruth. Afterwards four books of the 
Kingdoms, of which they make the first two one 
book, and the third and fourth one book. After 
them Paralipomenon, two books as one. Then 
Esdras, first and second as one, likewise. After this 
the Psalms, then Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of 
Songs. Then Job and afterwards Prophets, of whom 
Twelve make up one book, and besides Isaiah, Jere- 
miah, with which are Baruch, Lamentations and an 
Epistle. Then Ezekiel and Daniel. So far the books 
of the Old Testament. 



This list is clearly dependent on the Hellenistic 
Bible, though it enumerates only the writings 
of the Hebrew Bible, save that, like Origen, 
it knows Baruch as going with Jeremiah. Again 
we find Esther missing, and this time it can 
be no oversight, for a little later on Athanasius 
gives another list of books which it is edifying 
to read, but which are not authoritative, that 
is, not canonical, and among these are Wisdom 
of Solomon, Sirach, Esther, Judith, and Tobit. 
Q. Jerome (329-420).- The place of honor as 
an authority on scripture was held in the Latin- 
speaking church by Jerome who, like Origen, 
had Jewish teachers. In his commentary on 
Ecclesiastes he shows his awareness of the fact 
that the position of this book was disputed, 
though he records no objections to Esther. In 
his preface to Daniel he writes: 

I call attention to this, that, among the Hebrews, 
Daniel is not reckoned with the Prophets, but with 
those who wrote the Hagiographa. For all Scripture 
is by them divided into three portions, the Law, the 
Prophets, and the Hagiographa, that is, into five, 
and eight, and eleven books. 

This is precisely the division of the Hebrew 
Bible as we have it. Then in his Prologus 
Galeatus prefaced to the books of Samuel-Kings 
he gives his famous catalogue: 

First among them is a book called Bresith which we 
call Genesis. Second, Hellesmoth, which is called 
Exodus. Third, Vaiecra, that is, Leviticus. Fourth 
Vaiedabber, which we name Numbers. Fifth, Ad- 
dabarim, which signifies Deuteronomy. These are 
the five books of Moses which are properly called 
the Torah. They make a second order of the 
Prophets, and begin with Hiesu, son of Nave, who 
among them is called Josue ben Nun. Then they 
add Sophtim, that is, book of Judges, and with that 
they include Ruth, because it narrates a history that 
took place in the days of the Judges. Third follows 
Samuel, which we say to be the first and second 
books of Kings. Fourth Malachim f that is, Kings, 
which continue the third and fourth books of 
Kings. . . . Fifth, Esaias. Sixth, Hieremias. Seventh, 
Htezecihel. Eighth, the book of the Twelve Proph- 
ets, which among them is called Thare-asar. The 
third order has the Hagiographa. And first it be- 
gins with the book of Job. Second, David, compris- 
ing five groups of Psalms in one volume. Third is 
Solomon, having three books, Proverbs, which they 
call Masaloth, and Ecclesiastes, that is, Accoeleth, 
and Song of Songs, which is named Sir-assirim. The 
sixth is Daniel; the seventh, Dabre-iamim, that is, 
words of the days, but which we can more signifi- 
cantly call the chronicles of all divine history, and 
which among us is known as the first and second 
of Paralipomenon. The eighth is Ezras, which, as 
among the Greeks and Latins is divided into two 
books. Ninth, Esther. Thus the books of the Old 
Testament make up twenty-two books five of 
Moses, eight of Prophets, and nine of Hagiographa. 

Nevertheless not a few reckon Ruth and Lamenta- 
tions among the Hagiographa, and consider these 
two as being outside the number, making up the 
number of books to twenty-four. 

Here again we have the tripartite division rec- 
ognized as fundamental, but the arrangement o! 
the books is influenced by that of the Hel- 
lenistic Bible, and again Esther comes last. 
Later on Jerome mentions Wisdom of Solomon, 
Sirach, Judith, Tobit, and I and II Maccabees, 
but acknowledges that they are not in the 
canon. He freely uses the word canon, so that 
we are quite sure that his lists represent his 
understanding of what was in his day regarded 
as canonical in the strict sense. 

R. The Eastern Churches. The churches of 
Eastern Christendom were as a rule much closer 
to Jewish communities than the Greek-speaking 
or the Latin-speaking churches, but in this 
matter of the canon they have preserved con- 
siderable independence as to the extent of 
canonical scripture, though they differ not at 
all from either the Jews or the churches of 
Western Christendom regarding the authority 
of canonical scripture as a regula. 

1. The SyriaC'Spedking Church. Some Syriac- 
speaking groups which remained in communion 
with Constantinople accepted the Septuagint 
as used in the Byzantine church, but those 
which stood independent, whether Monophysite 
or Nestorian, accepted the Peshitta as their 
official scripture version. The Peshitta repre- 
sents a revision of earlier versions into Syriac, 
and may be dated in the fourth century. Origi- 
nally it would seem to have had only the books 
of the Hebrew Bible, for Isho'dad of Merv in 
his commentaries knows that the number of 
books in the Old Testament must be twenty- 
two, and two authors of the latter part of the 
fourth century, Aphraates and Ephraem Syrus, 
though they know the extra books, do not 
quote from them or comment on them as they 
do in the case of the others. Early in the fifth 
century Theodore of Mopsuestia who, though 
himself Greek-speaking, was regarded especially 
by the Nestorians as the great expositor of 
scripture divided scripture into three classes, 
books perfectae auctoritatis, books mediae auc 
toritatis, books nullius auctoritatis. The latter 
included numerous works of piety which circu- 
lated in the Eastern churches, but in the second 
we find Job, Tobit, I Esdras, Judith, Esther, 
Wisdom of Solomon, II Maccabees, Song of 
Songs, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah. Chroni- 
cles, indeed, seems to have been omitted from 
the original Peshitta, and in the Syrian Masorah 
there are no Masoretic notes for Chronicles or 
Ezra-Nehemiah, nor in the Nestorian Bibles 
for Esther. There is considerable variety in the 



Syriac manuscripts, both Jacobite and Nes- 
torian, as to the extra books that are included. 
As late as the end of the thirteenth century, in 
the Nomocanon of Bar-Hebraeus, we have a 
quotation from Canon 81 of the Canons of the 
Apostles regarding the scripture which all clergy 
and laymen ought to have, and the list runs for 
the Old Testament as follows: 

Five books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Judith, 
four books of Kings, two of Chronicles, two of 
Ezra, Esther, Job, David, five of Solomon, and 
sixteen Prophets. Of books without there is to be 
Bar Sira for the teaching of the young. 

2. The Armenian Church. There is quite a 
variety of lists of scripture to be found in 
Armenian ecclesiastical literature, and the old- 
est manuscripts differ considerably as to the 
books which they contain. We have, however, a 
synodal statement on the extent of the canon 
recognized in the Armenian church, which per- 
haps ought to be taken as the norm rather than 
the richer variety to be found in the manu- 
scripts or in later lists. At the Synod of Partav 
in 768 we find in Canon 22: 

As holy books of the Old Testament shall be 
reckoned Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, 
Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of 
Kings, two books of Paralipomenon, two books of 
Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Maccabees, four 
books of Solomon (that is, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, 
Wisdom and Canticles) , Job, Psalms of David, the 
Twelve Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah with Baruch, 
Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Wisdom of Sirach, 

3. The Abyssinian Church. An even greater 
variety of books is to be found in the early 
biblical manuscripts in Ethiopia and the Abys- 
sinian church has a wider range of scripture 
than any other Eastern church. Fundamentally 
its version depends on the Septuagint, but other 
influences have come in with later revisions. 
There seems to have been no authoritative 
decision in this church as to the extent of its 
canon, but the selections of the scribes of the 
biblical manuscripts seem to have been always 
from the following list: 

Eight books of the Octateuch; Kufale or little 
Genesis, one book; five books of Kings and Chron- 
icles; Job; five books of Solomon; four books of 
greater Prophets; twelve books of minor Prophets; 
two books of Ezra; one book of Maccabees; Tobit; 
Judith; Asenath; Esther; Ecclesiasticus; the Psalter; 
Uzziah; Enoch; Baruch; third (or fourth) Ezra. 

4* The Coptic Church. We have no early 
lists of the books received as canonical in the 
Coptic church, but from the Nomocanon of the 
thirteenth-century writer Ibn aPAssal it is 

clear that the Copts accepted the authority o 
the above-mentioned Canons of the Apostles. 
The text of the relevant canon therefrom differs 
somewhat in the various Coptic and Arabic 
sources available to us, but a comparison of 
them gives us the following list as that gener- 
ally accepted in the Coptic church: 

Pentateuch, five books; Joshua; Judges with Ruth; 
four books of Kings; two books of Paralipomena; 
Ezra and Nehemiah; Job; the Psalms; Proverbs; 
Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs; the twelve minor 
Prophets; the four greater Prophets (i.e., Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel) ; Wisdom; Judith; Tobit; 
Esther; three books of Maccabees; Ecclesiasticus. 

This list is derived from the Hellenistic Bible, 
whose wider range of writings, as might have 
been expected, has in general prevailed in the 
various areas that were formerly under the 
control of the Byzantine church. There has 
been at times discussion, e.g., in the Russian 
church, regarding the authority and canonicity 
of the so-called Deuterocanonical writings, and 
the various lists of books of scripture in the 
early Byzantine writers differ considerably, but 
the prevailing usage in the Greek and Russian 
churches has been to accept the Hellenistic 
Bible, and it was one form of the Hellenistic 
Bible that was formally pronounced as canon- 
ical in the Roman Catholic Church. 

F. Conclusion 

The result of examining these various wit- 
nesses may be summarily stated. 

A. Preparation for Canonization. There was 
a preparation for canonization by a progressive 
assembling of religious writings in which the 
community felt that the voice of religious 
authority could be heard, and this assembling 
among the Jews crystallized in three stages: 

(a) The Law, which at first meant merely 
the codes embodying the social and religious 
rules to be obeyed by the community, came to 
include the narratives of the early history and 
antiquities of the people, which were felt to be 
necessary to make the codes meaningful, and 
the whole was called Torah, or instruction. 
This later came to be divided into five sections, 
giving us the Pentateuch. That the Law was 
recognized as an entity, though not necessarily 
as a canonized entity, earlier than the other 
writings, is suggested by the facts (i) that the 
Samaritans took over only the Law; (ii) that the 
word Torah could later be used to cover all 
scripture; (iii) that among the Jews it has a 
place of unique regard; (iv) that it seems always 
to have been given first attention in the various 
translations. Some of the material now in our 
Pentateuch may have come to be regarded as 
sacred and authoritative at a fairly early date, 


but the Septuagint shows that some little addi- 
tions were made to the Hebrew text later than 
the date of its translation into Greek, about 
250 B.C., so that its text could not have been 
sacrosanct then. The Mishnah, however, about 
A.D. 200 assumes the present Hebrew text as 
something given. Much of the halakah therein 
is based on a text substantially that o our 
Pentateuch, so that we are driven back to 
about 200 B.C. as the date when the text must 
have been for all practical purposes fixed. This 
date is confirmed by the fact that the New 
Testament regards the Law as something known 
as a definite regula long held to be authorita- 
tive, no jot or tittle of which could be lightly 
changed. The end of the third century B.C., 
therefore, may be considered to be the date of 
the fixing of the text of the Pentateuch. 

(6) The Prophets is the group of documents 
including the writings of the prophets them- 
selves and the history within whose framework 
the prophets lived and labored. We have no 
means of telling when the writings of this sec- 
ond group began to form into a collection. 
The citation of earlier prophets by later ones 
is evidence that there were little collections in 
circulation earlier than the final collection. 
Ben Sirach certainly knew of scripture writings 
other than the Law in circulation about 200 B.C., 
and his grandson knew of a collection named 
"Prophets." The books of Maccabees know of 
a collection of "Prophets" besides the Law, and 
in the New Testament we have evidence of the 
custom of public reading of sections from the 
Prophets at synagogue services. This, however, 
does not necessarily presuppose the existence 
of a fixed body of writings from which nothing 
could be subtracted nor anything added. By the 
time of Josephus, however, the limits of such 
a collection had been set and a theory elabo- 
rated as to when true prophecy had come to an 
end. If we have to date Zech. 12-14 in 135 B.C., 
the collection could not have reached its final 
form before that date, and yet the semiofficial 
character of the undertaking evident in the 
Septuagint version of the Prophets would point 
to the existence of some generally recognized 
body of prophetic writings when that transla- 
tion was made. 

(c) The Hagiographa is a collection of mis- 
cellaneous writings, some of which may have 
begun to win recognition as early as parts of 
the prophetic collection. The New Testament 
quotes the Psalms as scripture, Ben Sirach 
knows of a collection besides the Law and the 
Prophets, and his grandson actually mentions 
such a group. So also the books of Maccabees 
refer to religious books in circulation which are 
neither Law nor Prophets. Josephus knows a 
fixed list of them. That this collection grew 

from small beginnings is clear. The Psalter is 
made up of smaller collections, and several 
documents have gone into the making of Prov- 
erbs. Some of this material may be dated as 
early as the sixth century B.C., but much of it is 
later, coming from a time when there was a 
general feeling that the creative period was 
past, so that these books are for the most part 
(i) paraphrase or elucidation or continuation 
of older texts, (ii) works put forth in the name 
of some great figure of the past, (iii) midrashim 
on some particular events in the past history of 
the people. 

B. Official Canonization. Older writers on 
the canon frequently speak of three separate 
canonizations, corresponding to the three stages 
in the collection of the writings, but we have 
no actual evidence that any one of these three 
parts was ever regarded as alone canonical. As 
collections, they were formed and limited at 
different times, and one part may have come 
to have a reputation as authoritative earlier 
than others, but the official pronouncing of 
them as canonical was a pronouncement that 
covered all three parts. Josephus knows that the 
officially received canon was a collection of 
twenty-two books, a figure which occurs again 
in Origen and is known to Jerome. II Esdras 
(IV Ezra) says it was of twenty-four books, 
which is the rabbinical number and the number 
given by Jerome in his preface to Daniel; the 
difference, Jerome says, depending on counting 
or not counting Ruth and Lamentations as 
separate. This official pronouncement was made 
at the Assembly at Jamnia, although it was not 
universally accepted. 

C. Resistance to Official Canonization. The 
Hellenistic Bible continued to perpetuate a 
larger collection, and the various translations 
from the Septuagint the Coptic, the Arme- 
nian, the Ethiopic carried yet further this 
larger collection. On the other hand, we find 
that some books admitted in the Jewish tradi- 
tion (twenty-two or twenty-four) were not in- 
cluded elsewhere, for example, Esther and 
Chronicles in the earlier Syriac tradition. Even 
among the Jews, quite apart from the echoes in 
the Talmud of discussions over the standing of 
certain books, we know from Yadayim 4:6 that 
the Sadducees did not accept without demur this 
limitation of the books, and we are told that 
the Essenes had books of their own which the 
postulant for admission to their sect had to 
swear to preserve. 

When we inquire more carefully into the 
canonization of the twenty-two or twenty-four 
books among the Jews, we discover the follow- 
ing facts: 

(a) It bears traces of the handiwork of the 
scribes, the Sopherim. The whole discussion re- 



garding the "defiling of hands" in connection 
with the scrolls of the scriptures, whether they 
defiled when written in Aramaic or only when 
in Hebrew, whether the spaces above and below 
the letters defile, or the erasures, or the blanks 
at the end, all these things show the preoccupa- 
tion of the Sopherim, and it was apparently 
their work that led to official action regarding 
sacred scripture. 

(&) It was a Pharisaic ordinance and regula- 
tion which the Sadducees did not accept with- 
out protest, and which they actually accused the 
Pharisees of inventing. 

(c) It originated in Palestine. The oft-sug- 
gested antithesis between the Alexandrine and 
the Palestinian canon is fictitious. There never 
were two canons. In New Testament times we 
find such a book as Enoch in use both in Alex- 
andria and in Palestine. In Palestine there 
came about a definite narrowing of the range of 
the books to be included in the finally fixed 
collection, and this was the only official canon- 
ization of the books of the Old Testament. 

The discussions regarding the inclusion or 
noninclusion of certain books show that the 
idea of a canonization of a limited number of 
books must have been in the minds of the rabbis 
for some time. That it was not a settled ques- 
tion in 130 B.C. is clear from the prologue of the 
grandson of Ben Sirach, nor could it have been 
settled in 114 B.C. when Lysimachus of Jerusa- 
lem translated Esther into Greek, for had there 
been a recognized collection he would hardly 
have felt at liberty to add to that book the 
legendary embellishments we find there. As the 
question of the disputed books divided the 
schools of Hillel and Shammai, it must have 
been a live question in the first century A.D., 
and probably was so fairly early in that century. 

When we ask why the question should have 
arisen in an acute form just at that time, we 
find two answers given: 

(a) When men felt that the genuine voice of 
religious authority was no longer to be heard, it 
was a matter of some importance to assemble 
those writings in which the community agreed 
it had been heard. This feeling, however, had 
long been present in Israel, and there must have 
been something that made it suddenly a matter 
of urgency to settle for the community the ques- 
tion of canonicity. One theory is that it was the 
rise of apocalyptic. The apocalyptic books with 
their grandiose visions of the future tended to 
wean men's minds from the past in which the re- 
ligious life of the community was rooted, and in 
a subtle way to supersede the older literature. 
The law had been given through Moses, but 
these books went behind Moses to supposed 
writings of Enoch and Seth and Noah, to testa- 
ments of Adam and Abraham, which as such 

laid claim to be superior books. II Esdras (IV 
Ezra) boldly asked that the seventy extra books 
that Ezra produced be kept apart and delivered 
only to those who were wise among the com- 
munity, "for in [such books] is the spring of 
understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and 
the stream of knowledge" (II Esdras 14:47). 
To check this apocalyptic the Sopherim elabo- 
rated a theory of inspiration; they said that 
inspiration belonged to the prophetic office, 
which began with Moses, and ended, as we 
learn from Josephus, in the time of Artaxerxes 
Longimanus, or according to the rabbinical 
writings, in the time of Alexander the Great. 
Therefore all books supposed to have been 
written before Moses, or those written later 
than the period of the prophets, were to be 
excluded. Thereafter the writings which were 
accepted into the canon gained their place 
only because they were supposed to have been 
written during the period of prophetic activity. 
This theory excluded Ben Sirach and the books 
of Maccabees, but Maccabean pieces included 
in the Psalter got in because they were covered 
by the name of David. Daniel and Job were 
considered to be of prophetic origin, and all 
that was ascribed to Isaiah and Zechariah found 
a place in the collection, however much later 
some of this material may be. Song of Songs, 
Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes were covered by the 
name of Solomon, and the exclusion of Wisdom 
and the Psalms of Solomon, which also bore the 
name of Solomon, can be explained only on 
the ground of language, since Greek was known 
to have been a language that was not used in 
the prophetic period. Esther, however, being 
in Hebrew, was considered to have come from 
that period. Lamentations found a place be- 
cause of its association with Jeremiah, and 
Baruch must have been excluded for the same 
reason that excluded Wisdom of Solomon. 

(b) The other theory is that the question 
assumed so acute a form as to demand immedi- 
ate resolving at that particular time, because of 
the rise and circulation of a body of Christian 
writings. Just as the necessity of excluding 
Gnostic writings led to the formulation of a 
canon of the New Testament books, so the rise 
of what in Jewish eyes was the Christian heresy 
brought about a Jewish formulation of a canon 
of scripture in a definite attempt to exclude 
those Christian writings which were exercising 
a dangerous fascination for many Jews. With 
the attempt to exclude these books came the 
necessity of settling on a standard for canonicity, 
and by the selection of the criterion of prophetic 
inspiration, which ceased in the time of Artax- 
erxes, there followed automatically the exclu- 
sion of such books as Sirach, Maccabees, and 
so forth, and of course the new Christian books 



which were making their claim to be inspired 
books and to speak with the same note of reli- 
gious authority. This second theory would seem 
to be supported by the fact that the earliest 
pronouncement on what does and what does 
not defile the hands specifically mentions the 
Gospels. This passage is the Tosephta Yadayim 

The Gospels and the books of the Minin do not 
defile the hands. The books of Ben Sira and all the 
books that have been written since his time do not 
defile the hands. 

With this may be associated the discussion in 
Tosephta Shabbath 12(14):5, on what things 
may legally be rescued from a burning building 
on the sabbath day, where we read that scrip- 
tures may be rescued but not Gospels or the 
books of the Minin (i.e., heretics) , even though 
they contain names of God. It has been pointed 
out that while the earliest mention of an ordi- 
nance against Christian and heretical books 
dates from between A,D. 70 and 90, it is in the 
years 100 to 130 that we find all the Jewish 
leaders inveighing violently against the heretics 
and their books. Suddenly, in the second half 
of the second century, polemic against the Chris- 
tians abruptly ceased, so that when the Mishnah 
was redacted at the end of the century, it in- 
cluded none of the defensive ordinances against 
Christianity such as are in the Tosephtas and 
Baraitas. The distinction had been made so 
clear between Jewish scripture and Christian 
scripture that the letter had become of little 
danger to the Jewish community, and thus from 
now on we hear nothing within Judaism con- 
cerning the canon of scripture save some echoes 
of controversy as to whether some of the books 
included when the canon was defined had not 
better have been left out. Christians continued 

to use the larger collection, but when Jewish 
revisions of the Greek were made, they limited 
themselves to those books in the now definitely 
fixed Hebrew canon. 

VI. Selected Bibliography 

BENTZEN, AAGE. Introduction to the Old Testament. 
Copenhagen: G. E. C. Gad, 1948. Vol. I, pp. 20-41. 

BUDDE, KARL. Article, "Canon, Old Testament," in 
T. K. Cheyne, ed., Encyclopaedia Biblica. New 
York: The Macmillan Co., 1899. Vol. I, pp. 649-74. 

BUHL, FRANTS. Canon and Text of the Old Testa- 
ment, tr. John Macpherson. Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1892. 

EISSFELDT, OTTO. Einleitung in das Alte Testament. 
Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1934. Pp. 614-30. 

MARGOLIS, M. L. The Hebrew Scriptures in the 
Making. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 
of America, 1922. 

OSTBORN, GUNNAR, Cult and Canon: A Study in the 
Canonization of the Old Testament. Uppsala: 
A.-B. Lundequistska, 1951. 

PFEIFFER, R. H. Introduction to the Old Testament. 
New York: Harper & Bros., 1941. Pp. 50-70. 

RYLE, H. E. The Canon of the Old Testament. 
2nd ed. London: Macmillan & Co., 1925. 

SMITH, W. ROBERTSON. The Old Testament in the 
Jewish Church. 2nd ed. rev. New York: D. Apple- 
ton & Co., 1892. 

STRACK, H. L. Article, "Canon of Scripture," in S. M. 
Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclo- 
pedia. New York: Funk 8c Wagnalls, 1908. Vol. II, 
pp. 388-93. 

WILDEBOER, G. The Origin of the Canon of the Old 
Testament, tr. B. W. Bacon. London: Luzac & Co., 

WOODS, F. H. Article, "Old Testament Canon," in 
James Hastings, ed., A Dictionary of the Bible. 
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900. Vol. Ill, 
pp. 604-16. 

ZEITLIN, S. An Historical Study of the Canonization 
of the Hebrew Scriptures. Philadelphia: Jewish 
Publication Society of America, 1933. 




I. Primitive Documents 
II. The Early Collection 

III. The Completed Collection 

A. Textual Markings 

B. Verse and Sense Divisions 

C. Peculiarities of Orthography 

IV. The Masoretes 

A. Statistical Masorah 

B. Exegetical Masorah 

C. Text-Critical Masorah 
V. The Printed Text 

Modern English versions of the Old Testa- 
ment are based in the first instance on the 
Masoretic text of the canonical Hebrew Scrip- 
ture (see articles, "The Canon of the Old Testa- 
ment," pp. 32-45, and "The English Bible," 
pp. 84-105) . The Masoretic text was established 
from the fifth to the tenth centuries of the 
Christian Era by several generations of Jewish 
scholars, most of whom were called "Masoretes" 
(from the word Masorah, "tradition") . 

Of none of the documents received into the 
canonical collection of Hebrew Scripture do we 
possess the original autograph; nor do we 
possess the original text of the collection as it 
was written out at the time of its acceptance 
as canonical. Thus a history of the text of the 
Old Testament, however we may divide it for 
convenience of study, falls chronologically into 
three periods: (a) the history of the text of the 
original documents before the time of their 
definite acceptance into a canonical collection; 
(b) the history of the text of this canonical 
collection till the time of its receiving a fixed 
form at the hands of the Masoretes; (c) the 
history of the Masoretic text from the date of 
its fixing till the appearance of the printed 
editions we now use. It will never be possible 
to write the complete history of the text, with 
all the changes it underwent throughout this 
long period of transmission, for history must 
be based on evidence, and at all too many places 
in our survey the evidence available to us is 

VI. The Ancient Versions 

A. The Samaritan Pentateuch 

B. The Aramaic Targums 

C. The Greek Versions 

D. The Syriac Versions 

E. The Latin Versions 

F. The Coptic Versions 

G. The Armenian Version 
H. The Arabic Versions 

J. The Ethiopic Version 
K. The Georgian Version 
L. Conclusion 
VII. Selected Bibliography 

too fragmentary and uncertain to permit more 
than conjectures. 

I. Primitive Documents 

Some of the material that is now contained 
in the canonical books of the Old Testament 
was doubtless handed down orally from gen- 
eration to generation for a considerable time 
before any attempt was made to set it down in 
writing. In the case of other religions also we 
know of sacred poetry and legend, sacred laws, 
liturgies, and rituals being handed down and 
preserved throughout many generations in un- 
written form. In all such cases there can be no 
doubt that during the period of oral transmis- 
sion the text underwent many modifications. 
Sometimes a given text has been transmitted 
in two or more parallel forms, and this fact 
enables us to see how various types of error and 
change may occur. The claim has been made 
that a special providence preserved the docu- 
ments of the Old and the New Testaments from 
all contamination by the various types of cor- 
ruption which normally affect documents dur- 
ing the long process of their transmission. Pre- 
cisely the same claim is made by other religions 
for their scriptures, but the evidence *u our 
hands makes it quite clear that in all cases such 
claims are baseless. The text of the Old Testa- 
ment in its written form has demonstrably been 
subject to alteration and modification in the 
process of transmission, and there is no reason 



to think that it did not suffer similarly during 
the period of oral transmission before it was 
recorded in written form. This does not neces- 
sarily mean that the text has been altered with 
evil intent. The correctors may have meant well. 
Obsolete words tend to be replaced by words in 
more common use; expressions which the taste 
of a later day finds objectionable tend to be 
toned down or replaced; explanatory glosses 
come to be added as an aid to understanding a 
text. Although such modifications are made with 
good intent, they constitute a tampering with 
the text and must be technically considered as 
cases of textual corruption. 

How early any of the Old Testament material 
was written down, or in what form, we cannot 
say with certainty. Written material of a reli- 
gious nature was found in the Near East at an 
early period, perhaps as early as the fourth mil- 
lennium B.C. The Pyramid texts of the early 
dynasties in Egypt present material which 
strongly suggests that it is derived from written 
material of the predynastic period. Temple 
records in Mesopotamia may be even earlier 
than this. A publication by Maurice Dunand 1 
suggests that in Canaan pictographic script may 
have been in use, at least at Byblos, not very 
much later, while a pseudo-hieroglyphic script 
was certainly in use there before the end of the 
third millennium B.C. There is thus nothing 
inherently impossible in the suggestion that 
written religious documents may have been in 
circulation in Palestine during the patriarchal 
period. The alphabetic use of cuneiform signs 
in the Ras Shamra texts, the alphabetic adapta- 
tion of Egyptian signs in the Sinai inscriptions 
from Serabit el-Khadem, the possibility that the 
acrophonetic system of reading hieroglyphs in 
Egypt may have given rise to an alphabetic 
system of signs there earlier than the Eighteenth 
Dynasty, and the evidence adduced by Dunand 
in the above-mentioned book, suggesting that 
the Phoenician alphabet may go back as far as 
the fifteenth century B.C., make it not only pos- 
sible but even probable that in Mosaic times 
an alphabetic script would have been used in 
Palestine for recording religious documents. It 
is thus beside the point to discuss whether our 
Old Testament may in places present features 
of documents transcribed from originals which 
Moses wrote in cuneiform on clay tablets, or 
from documents on papyrus, in some form of 
hieratic script, in which he brought from Egypt 
the story of the bondage and recorded the tale 
of the desert wanderings and the laws given at 
Sinai. Literary criticism suggests that the earliest 
material we actually have in our Old Testament 
documents dates from the tenth century B.C., 
and as we have several examples of writing in 

1 Byblia Grammata (Beyrouth: 1945). 

an alphabetic script from Palestine of the early 
Iron Age (ca. 1200-900 B.C.) , examples which 
suggest that writing was then used for everyday 
purposes, it is reasonable to assume that if our 
documents took written form in this period, 
they would have been written in the same way. 

References to writing in the Old Testament 
are not numerous. In Genesis there is no allu- 
sion to writing, but in Exodus the JE document 
represents Moses as practicing the art (Exod. 
17:14; 34:28) . The more frequent references in 
the Prophets indicate that writing was common 
in their time. The oft-quoted "pen of the 
writer" in Judg. 5:14 is no evidence, for liJD 
tDStf means rather the scribe's staff of office. 
The sro' of Judg. 8:14, however, may be proof 
that youths in Gideon's time were taught to 
write, while David is described not only as hav- 
ing secretaries on his staff (II Sam. 8:17; 20:25; 
cf. II Kings 12:11 [Heb. 10]), but also as him- 
self writing and sending a message (II Sam. 
11:14-15) . The Gezer calendar of the ninth (or 
perhaps the tenth) century B.C., the Mesha" 
inscription in Moabitish of the ninth century, 
and the business documents on ostraca from 
Samaria of the eighth century, all of which are 
in dialects closely related to biblical Hebrew, 
show us what the script in use in this age was 
like. The earliest documents in Hebrew at pres- 
ent known are the Siloam inscriptions of the 
eighth century, the Ophel ostracon of the sev- 
enth century, numerous stamps on jar handles, 
seals from various sites and dates between 650 
and 500 B.C., and the Lachish letters on ostraca 
from the sixth century. All these use that same 
type of script. 

The Siloam inscriptions are incised on stone, 
as are the Gezer calendar and the Moabite in- 
scription. Religious inscriptions carved on stone 
are known from very early periods in the Near 
East. In the Old Testament itself we read of 
Moses having his laws on tables of stone (Exod. 
31:18; 34:1, 28), while laws written on stones 
were set up beyond Jordan (Deut. 27:2-3; 
Josh. 8:30-32) . Inscriptions carved on wood and 
metal are also known from early times. The 
m^ of Isa. 30:8 and Hab. 2:2 was doubtless of 
wood, and perhaps the p 1 ^ of Isa. 8:1 was of 
metal. The cuneiform religious texts are com- 
monly on clay, and that such a material was 
used for writing in Israel is evidenced not only 
by the stamped jar handles and seals, but also 
by the notice that Ezekiel was directed to draw 
his plan of Jerusalem on a tile (nsrt, Ezek. 4:1) . 
Writing that is painted, not incised, is known 
from quite early times in Egypt, and on a 
variety of materials. This method of writing 
served to introduce new materials such as linen, 
leather, ostraca, and papyri, and with these 
developed the use of ink. Ostraca were used 



mostly for nonliterary documents. We have 
representations on both Mesopotamian and 
Egyptian monuments of scribes using leather 
or parchment scrolls. The Letter to Aristeas 
(ca. 110 B.C.) assumes that it was customary for 
scripture books to be copied on parchment. The 
story of the cutting and burning of the roll of 
which we read in Jer. 36:23 suggests papyrus 
rather than leather, and indeed the Greek 
translation assumes that it was a papyrus roll. 
Papyrus was used in Egypt at an early date. 
The story of Wen Amon (ca, 1110 B.C.) shows 
that large quantities of this writing material 
were being imported into Byblos, a fact which 
suggests its common use in other centers also. 
As a matter of fact, a number of seals in the 
collection of the Palestine Museum bear evi- 
dence of having been impressed on papyrus 
documents. It is probable that the early docu- 
ments of the Old Testament would have been 
written on papyrus. The sense that we have in 
some parts of the Old Testament of dealing 
with dismembered fragments whose arrange- 
ment and piecing together had presented diffi- 
culties to the collectors has its parallel in the 
difficulties scholars have in dealing with the 
Greek papyri, and perhaps can best be ex- 
plained by the assumption that much of the 
original material came to the collectors written 
on this type of perishable material. 

The kind of writing instrument employed 
would depend on the material being used. 
Metal implements were used for incising in- 
scriptions on stone and metal. Job 19:24 speaks 
of an "iron pen" (^m toy) with which he would 
engrave his words, and the same expression is 
used in Jer. 17: 1 for the pen which is to engrave 
the sin of Judah. The tsin, or "graving tool," 
which in Exod. 32:4 is the instrument whereby 
the golden calf was fashioned, in Isa. 8:1 is 
used for the "pen" with which the prophet was 
to write his message. The stylus (crruXo^) was 
a pointed instrument for writing on clay or 
wax. A brush could be used for writing on 
various types of material with either paint or 
ink. The popular instrument for writing, how- 
ever, was the reed pen, such as is pictured in the 
hands of scribes in early Egyptian tombs. This 
is the KdAccjaoq (III Mace. 4:20) for which the 
Hebrew equivalent is toy (Ps. 45:2 [Heb. 1]; 
Jer. 8'8) . The point wore down and had to be 
recut, whence comes the importance of the 
"scribe's knife" (Jer. 36:23), which he also 
used for making erasures. The Samaritan ostraca 
and the Lachish letters are written with ink, 
and Baruch tells how he wrote the words of the 
prophet in ink (Jer. 36:18). Along with his 
knife, the scribe carried in his girdle the ink- 
horn (Ezek. 9:2) . 
Though individual oracles or poems, records 


or literary pieces, would be written on con- 
venient papyrus sheets, the normal book form 
at the time of these early Old Testament docu- 
ments was the scroll or roll, whether of papyrus, 
leather, or parchment. Such are represented on 
Egyptian and Mesopotamian monuments, and 
in the well-known scene on the Arch of Titus a 
man is pictured carrying one of these rolls. That 
the Hebrew "iso, "book," was a scroll is clear 
from Isa. 34 -4, where we read that the heavens 
are to be rolled up like a ISO. So the n^Jitt of 
Jer. 36:14 is in Ezek. 2:9 called "the roll of a 
book." In ancient times such scrolls or rolls 
were usually small in size, and it may be that 
the dividing of certain parts of the Old Testa- 
ment is due to the fact that only so much writ- 
ing could be contained conveniently in a nor- 
mal-sized roll. The cursive character of the 
writing on the ostraca, which is also reflected in 
the style of the writing in the Siloam inscrip- 
tion, suggests extensive practice of writing, so 
that we may think of the early documents we 
are considering as having been written in cur- 
sive fashion by professional or semiprofessional 
scribes. In Jer. 36.18 the prophet pronounces 
the words with his mouth and Baruch writes 
them in the scroll, but it is by no means unlikely 
that some of the early documents whose content 
was later incorporated in the Old Testament 
may have been written by their authors and 
not dictated. The three words for "scribe" used 
in the Old Testament, ISD, itatp, and IDSB, all 
seem to be words borrowed from Mesopotamia, 
and to be used as the titles of officials, but this 
does not prove that private writers may not have 
been common. 

The oldest specimens of Hebrew writing that 
we possess are all in what we may call the 
Canaanite characters, such as were used in the 
old Phoenician inscriptions and on the Moabite 
stone. These are also used in the writing on 
the Samaritan ostraca and in the Lachish letters, 
and would doubtless have been used for writing 
the originals of the Old Testament documents 
of the earliest period. These characters contin- 
ued to be used on coins as late as the Jewish 
revolt of A.D, 132-35, and in a modified form 
are still used by the Samaritans for their reli- 
gious books. When the Aramaeans came into 
Asia Anterior and began to write their Aramaic 
language, they also made use of these Canaan- 
itish characters, but in their hands the charac- 
ters underwent certain modifications. We can 
see the earlier forms in the inscriptions from 
Zendjirli of the eighth century B.C., but by the 
time we reach the Elephantine papyri of the 
fifth century, these Aramaic characters have a 
definite style of their own. A little before the 
time of Christ we find some inscriptions in 
Hebrew, such as that at *Araq al-Amir, which 


are written in this Aramaic form of the script, 
and in the early centuries after Christ the writ- 
ing on the Jewish ossuaries and the inscriptions, 
such as that of the mosaic at 'Am Duk, are also 
in this script. The Elephantine papyri were 
written for, if not actually by, Jews, and there 
is reason to believe that with the increasing 
use of the Aramaic language in Palestine this 
Aramaic form of script gradually superseded 
the older Canaanitish form in documents for 
official usage, though the survival of it in Sa- 
maritan and the fragments of Leviticus from the 
Ain Feshka cave suggest that the old script for 
long continued in popular use alongside it. 
Every manuscript of the Old Testament that has 
survived, including the Nash papyrus and the 
Dead Sea scrolls, which are our oldest specimens 
of biblical manuscripts in Hebrew, and may be 
pre-Christian, are written in a variety of this 
Aramaic type of script known as the "square 
script." There are in the Bible certain passages 
that are in the Aramaic language, and it is not 
improbable that they, along with some of the 
postexilic material in Hebrew, may have been 
originally written in the Aramaic script. It 
seems certain that by the time our documents 
were gathered together in a form ready for 
canonization, they would all have been written 
in this script. Some readings in our present text 
are due to the confusion of letters which are 
similar in the square script but not in the older 
script and are not represented in the Septuagint 
which fact points to the same conclusion. 

At the time the Pentateuch was first translated 
into Greek it was still in the older style of 
script. This is clear from the fact that certain 
of the mistakes of translation in that version 
are best explained as due to the confusion of 
letters which are much alike in the old script 
but which would not have been likely to be con- 
fused in the Aramaic script. Outside the Penta- 
teuch, however, there are mistakes of transla- 
tion in the Septuagint which seem to be due 
to confusion of those letters which are similar 
in form in the Aramaic script. Josephus at one 
place 2 speaks of copies of the Law in the old 
script, though elsewhere 8 he seems to know of 
books in the Aramaic character. That the 
Samaritans made their copy of the Pentateuch 
in the old characters suggests that about 122 B.C. 
manuscripts of the Pentateuch were still circu- 
lating in that style of script. In the Gospels, 
however, we find the yodh referred to as the 
smallest letter (Matt. 5:18) , which it was in the 
Aramaic square script but not in the old script. 
As this is the period when we begin to find Jew- 
ish inscriptions appearing in the Aramaic char- 
acters, we may perhaps date the complete 

Antiquities XII. 2. 4. 
Ibid., XII. 2. 1. 

change-over into this type of script as having 
taken place in the first century B.C. Later Jew- 
ish writers found it necessary to explain this 
change in script to the square, or what they 
called the "Assyrian" script, and so we have the 
curious passages in the Talmud, B. Sanhedrin 
21&, Yer. Meg. I. 716-c, and Tosephta San- 
hedrin 4:7-8. 

The text at this early period would have been 
a bare consonantal text, though with a begin- 
ning of the use of the matres lectionis. Some of 
the inscriptions, such as the Mesha* stone and 
the great Siloam inscription, have a dot as 
word divider, and this is found in the Samari- 
tan ostraca. No such device, however, is used 
in the Lachish letters, and the fact that numer- 
ous translations in the Septuagint depend on 
a different word division from that in our pres- 
ent Hebrew text makes it fairly certain that the 
earliest manuscripts would have had neither 
marks for word division nor signs of verse divi- 
sion, though they may have had some simple 
form of paragraphing such as may be seen in 
the Dead Sea scrolls. The inscriptions reveal 
the practice of abbreviation, and there are cer- 
tain phenomena in our present text which sug- 
gest that various types of abbreviation were 
used in earlier copies, which later generations 
of scribes did not fully understand. 

II. The Early Collection 

In the wider sense the history of the text 
commenced when the first material came to be 
composed. Some of this, as we have seen, may 
have circulated in oral form long before it was 
written down, and even when reduced to writ- 
ten form may have had considerable circulation 
before it came to be regarded as scripture ma- 
terial, and as such copied for community use. 
In the narrower sense, therefore, the history 
of the text, as a text of canonical scripture, 
begins only when a group of documents comes 
to be copied as a collection of writings of reli- 
gious authority. Even then there will normally 
be a long period of transmission before any 
attempt is made to fix the text in a definite 
form. Some documents in the collection may 
circulate in a contracted, or maybe in an ex- 
panded, form. Owners will correct, interpolate, 
or annotate their copies. Some will order to be 
copied for them only those portions which have 
interest to them, or may have portions from 
different sources copied into one and the same 
manuscript. The characteristic of this period is 
the free and uncontrolled transmission of the 
text by copyists who took liberties with their 
text in a way that was not possible after canoni- 
zation. Also with continuous copying over a 
long period it was inevitable that there would 



creep into the text the usual types of textual 

A study of the parallel passages in the Old 
Testament reveals the freedom with which the 
text was then treated. A comparison of II Sam. 
22 with Ps. 18, of Ps. 14 with Ps. 53, of Ps. 81: 
24o [Heb. l-8a] with Ps. 71:1-3, of Ezra 2 with 
Neh. 7:6 ff., or the parallel accounts in Samuel- 
Kings and those in Chronicles, shows us not 
only the wording of statements, but even names 
and numbers, differing in a way that can be 
explained only as alterations made during trans- 
mission. Curious repetitions within certain 
books suggest that the text we have is a copy 
based on two or more manuscripts which the 
copyist had at his disposal, while other mistakes 
suggest repeated copying at different times. 
Some corruptions would seem to have arisen 
from the process of transcribing texts from the 
old style of writing to the new square script. 
Others arise from the usual sources of copyists' 
errors confusion of letters or groups of letters, 
wrong repetition or omission, transposition, 
false writings under 'he influence of neighbor- 
ing words or sentences, incorporation of glosses, 
and so forth. Some are due to a copyist's exer- 
cising his own judgment instead of merely copy- 
ing, as when lie introduces wrong word division 
or word connection or a false vocalization, or 
when he corrects passages, either by attempting 
to fill out abbreviations, or replacing words by 
synonyms, or making alterations on the ground 
of etymology. Sometimes explanatory glosses 
are added, sometimes the text is expanded by 
the citation of parallel passages, and occasion- 
ally there are tendential alterations, such as the 
interchange of the names Gerizim and Ebal 
during the Samaritan controversy. In the poet- 
ical and prophetic books we are frequently 
conscious of dislocation in the text. One cause 
of this may well be that in such books, where 
there was no such guide as is present in narra- 
tive material, copyists working at the task of 
copying deteriorated scrolls often had difficulty 
in recognizing the order of the leaves and 
fragments lying before them, and so tended to 
join pieces together on the ground of catch- 
words, with the result that in places quite un- 
related materials are joined and related materi- 
als separated. 

As the collection grew in importance to the 
community because of its religious significance, 
there inevitably came into being a body of men 
who in a special way interested themselves in 
the care of the material in the collection. We 
find this happening in the case of other reli- 
gions, for example, in the growth of the group 
of the Qurra* in early Islam, who devoted them- 
selves to caring for the text of the Qur'an. 
Among the Jews this group of men came to be 


known as Sopherim, that is, bookmen or scribes. 
Tradition associates the name of Ezra with the 
formal organization of the Sopherim, but it is 
fairly certain that for long they would have had 
no formal organization, being simply individ- 
uals interested in scripture, who were thus 
drawn together, until presently they found 
themselves regarded by the community as in 
some special sense the guardians and custodians 
of scripture. They were by no means mere copy- 
ists, as the name scribe might seem to imply, 
but were "bookmen," interested in everything 
that concerned the preservation and interpreta- 
tion of the national and religious literature of 
their community. It is possible that they came 
to be recognized as a more or less organized 
body during the experience of the Exile, but it 
was later, when the community had come to 
recognize that its religion, both in belief and 
practice, was founded on the authority of 
scripture, that they really came into promi- 
nence and had that special position which is 
reflected in the New Testament references. 

From the material in our hands it is possible 
to indicate some aspects of their various labors 
in connection with the text. It was under them 
that the change-over from the old style writing 
to the new was completed, and in their hands 
the manuscript form of the "square" script 
developed. With them the collection began to 
take shape as a body of religious literature. The 
text as we have it bears manifold signs of the 
hand of "the redactor," so it is evident that 
pious men were exercising great care in select- 
ing, arranging, and editing material to form a 
body of scripture that would one day be offici- 
ally canonized. No thought of such canonization 
was in their minds, but they were doing the 
necessary work preliminary to such canoniza- 
tion. The earliest versions of the Old Testa- 
ment were also doubtless due to members of this 
class. Though the Greek and Syriac translations 
were later revised by Christians, the underlying 
work on them was done by Jews, and like the 
Aramaic Targums, they seem at first to have 
been quite unofficial undertakings which arose 
from the needs of communities to whom the 
Hebrew original was not easily intelligible. 
Different sections of these versions were trans- 
lated at different times and in different places, 
and they vary considerably in both accuracy 
and style, but their translators would certainly 
have come from among those individuals whose 
special interest was the text, li we admit the 
possibility that some of the documents in our 
Hebrew Bible are translations from Aramaic 
originals, the task of rendering them into the 
sacred tongue would also have been the work 
of members of this group. 

The rise of the synagogue presented a special 


problem, for numbers of copies of the Torah, 
and to a lesser extent of the Prophets, would 
be needed for the synagogues. Great care had to 
be taken to ensure the correctness of the text 
thus copied and the Sopherim came to be more 
and more occupied with textual details. First 
there was the question of orthography, of im- 
provements such as the introduction of final 
forms for certain letters, of the increased use 
of the matres lectioms to ensure correct read- 
ings, of perfecting the manuscript hand with 
its "tittles" and other small peculiarities. Then 
there was the choice of a standard text to be 
read in all centers of the community. Along 
with this came the task of marking clearly the 
larger and smaller sense divisions in the text, 
since a correct interpretation would often de- 
pend on such marking. 

Increased reverence for the scriptural books 
led to a certain amount of correction made in 
the interests of piety. To safeguard the divine 
name little alterations were made, names of 
heathen deities were disfigured, small changes 
were introduced in order to avoid anthropo- 
morphisms, and euphemisms were substituted 
for words and expressions which the Sopherim 
considered offensive or inelegant. One special 
class of these euphemisms is that known as the 
Tiqqunl Sopherim, to eighteen of which atten- 
tion is called by marginal notes in some of our 
oldest manuscripts (Gen. 18:22; Num. 11:15; 
12:12; I Sam. 3:13; II Sam. 16:12; 20:1; I Kings 
12:16; II Chr. 10:16; Jer. 2:11; Ezek. 8:17; Hos. 
4:7; Hab. 1:12; Zech. 2:12 [Heb. 8]; Mai. 1:12; 
Ps. 106:20; Job 7:20; 32:3; Lam. 3:20) . It is 
probable also that the curious uniformity of 
language in the Old Testament, which is quite 
extraordinary in a collection of documents of 
such varied dates, is due to an attempt by the 
Sopherim to secure linguistic uniformity in 
their text, just as in the case of the Qur'an we 
read how Uthman's committee was appointed 
expressly to secure such uniformity in the final 
redaction. It has been suggested that the 
Sopherim of this period, conscious of numerous 
variant readings from manuscripts other than 
that which they chose as their standard text, 
and desiring to record these variants, simply 
inserted them into the text, thus producing the 
very curious redundancies often evident in the 
present Bible, and which in modern days should 
be indicated by brackets. 

HI. The Completed Collection 

With the closing o the canon (ca. A.D. 100) , 
we enter the period of the later Sopherim, the 
chief feature of whose work is the "stereotyp- 
ing" of the text. The closing of the canon 
defined what books the Jews accepted as having 
authority, and it must have become evident 

soon thereafter that a closer definition of the 
text was also necessary. The New Testament 
quotes scripture often from the Septuagint, 
sometimes from what is virtually the present 
Hebrew text, and sometimes in a form that 
agrees with neither. Likewise, the early Chris- 
tian writers handled the text very freely, so that 
the controversy with the growing Christian 
church was doubtless one factor contributing to 
the sense of need for a text fixed ne varietur. 
It would seem that much of the work directed 
to this end was accomplished under the direc- 
tion of R. Akiba and his colleagues. By the 
middle of the second century AJD. the text of 
the Hebrew Bible, as regards the consonants 
and the first stage of voweling represented by 
the introduction of consonantal letters indicat- 
ing vowel sounds, was probably very little differ- 
ent from that which we have today. While the 
old Greek version of the Septuagint shows in 
a great many passages that it was translated 
from a text which differed considerably from 
ours, the new Greek versions of Aquila, Theodo- 
tion, and Symmachus, that were made between 
A.D. 120 and 200 rarely show readings based on 
a consonantal text different from that of our 
Hebrew Bible. Moreover, the quotations in the 
rabbinical writings, though they do occasion- 
ally have variant readings, show that the text 
used by the rabbis was in all essentials the text 
we have today. Thus with the closing of the 
canon there was also a fixing of the text. A 
uniform text necessarily depends on the choos- 
ing of a standard exemplar to which all copies 
must conform, and this choice was probably 
the work of the Sopherim. We have no tradi- 
tion, however, as to how or where this standard 
copy was selected. It was a text that had a 
number of peculiarities, some of which must 
be relatively old since they are referred to in 
the Talmud, and all these were now faithfully 
transmitted as part of the uniform text, pre- 
cisely as all the peculiarities of Uthman's stand- 
ard exemplar of the Qur'an are still preserved 
in modern editions. 

Any such exemplar chosen as the standard 
would represent only one form of text tradition. 
We may assume that in the eyes of the Sopherim 
the text chosen represented the best tradition 
available to them, but it was not the only tradi- 
tion. The Samaritan Pentateuch in many pas- 
sages seems to be following a different tradition, 
particularly where its numerous differences in 
orthography, in the minutiae of grammar, in 
names and numbers, and in the way its redactor 
takes over the results of exegesis into the text, 
have external attestation. The earlier parts of 
the Septuagint version were certainly translated 
from a text that differed in many particulars 
from that chosen as standard by the Sopherim, 



but even in the parts that were translated much 
later there is similar evidence. The text of some 
books, for example, Ezekiel and Job, is shorter 
in the Septuagint than in the present Hebrew 
text, while in other books it contains passages 
which have dropped out of the Hebrew original. 
Its tradition on numbers frequently differs from 
the Hebrew, and in places it has preserved a 
better form of proper names. Its arrangement 
of material also in some places is considerably 
different, On the other hand, many little details, 
such as tendentious changes in name (e.g., 
tyina to rwmuo; LXX: M<-$tp6a0e) , show that 
the text underlying the Greek had undergone 
somewhat the same process of revision as had 
the Hebrew. In the rabbinical writings also we 
occasionally hear of other codices whose read- 
ing did not always agree with those of the 
standard text. Thus we have a number of strik- 
ing variants quoted from a codex said to have 
belonged to R. Meir, and a list of variants from 
a codex of the Pentateuch said to have been 
brought from Jerusalem to Rome and there 
housed in the synagogue of Severus. In both the 
Mishnah and Gemara we find quotations from 
the Old Testament whose wording differs from 
that in our present text, and the further we 
move back historically in the rabbinical writings 
the greater becomes the divergence from the 
present text. It is therefore possible that the re- 
search initiated by Blau and Aptowitzer in this 
field may reveal further traces of an earlier type 
of text. The text of the Nash papyrus, already 
mentioned, is closer to that followed by the 
Septuagint than to that of the Masoretes. In 
Yer. Ta'anith 4:2 we have reference to three 
codices known as M'*6nt, Za^tuti and HP, but 
it is doubtful if these can be considered traces 
of variant text tradition. 

Even though the Sopherim of this period 
were working on a text that was accepted as 
standard, the technique of perfect transmission 
was not attained immediately. They seem to 
have recognized that it was not a perfect text, 
and modern scholarship suggests that we can 
detect certain euphemistic and dogmatic re- 
visions, conflations, eliminations of unpropitious 
names, corrections of unfulfilled prophecies, 
due to their hands, as well as scribal alterations 
resulting from a failure to distinguish clearly 
the guttural letters, exchange of consonants, 
and perhaps some changes due to the universal 
scribal fondness for wordplay. As their tech- 
nique improved, however, they learned to leave 
the text as it was and simply mark it to suggest 
corrections or emendations. 

A. Textual Markings. Various classes of 
textual markings have been preserved. 

(a) The Puncta extraordinaria. Fifteen words 
in the printed Bible, following the manuscripts, 


are marked by being dotted, viz., iu3i in Gen, 
16:5; i*te in Gen. 18:9; noipai in Gen. 19:33; 
inp*n in Gen. 33:4; |Ksrrm in Gen. 37:12; 
pmn in Num. 3:39; npm m Num. 9:10; *WK in 
Num. 21:30; tntyjn in Num. 29:15; ^m*n }fi 
in Deut. 29:28; KS> in II Sam. 19:20; nan in Isa. 
44:9; tomn in Ezek. 41:20; myspne in Eze 
46:22; and M in Ps. 27:13. This dotting of 
letters is a well-known scribal method of indi- 
cating erasures, and the rabbinical notes on 
these words in Sifre (Num. 9:10) and Midrash 
Rabba (Num. 3:39) make it clear that later 
authorities thought these words were spurious 
additions to the text. It is probable that many 
other words were so marked in old manuscripts. 

(b) The Miqrff Sopherim, and 'Ift&r So- 
ph'rtm, referred to in Nedarim 37 b, which were 
directions to the reader as to the correct pro- 
nunciation of words or groups of words in the 

(c) The Pisqd', or blank space left in the 
text, apparently to mark omissions. Some 
twenty-eight of these have been noted in the 
manuscripts, e.g., at Gen. 35:22; I Sam. 14:19; 
Ezek. 3:16. 

(d) The Q e r$ wa-Kethibh where a mark in 
the text refers the reader to the margin which 
gives the correct reading to be used in place of 
what is written in the text. 

There are three groups of material in this 

(i) Qaryan wd-16* K e thibhdn words which 
are to be read though they are not in the text; 
that is, they mark scribal omissions, e.g., Judg. 
20:13; Ruth 3:5, 17; II Sam. 8:3; 16:23. 

(ii) Kethibhan wa-16* Qaryan words which 
though written in the text must be omitted in 
the reading; that is, they mark mistaken scribal 
additions to the text, e.g., Ruth 3:12; Jer. 38:16; 

(iii) Qfre where nothing is omitted and 
nothing added, but the reading in the margin 
is suggested as an improvement on what is 
written in the text. Sometimes the Qfr& is sug- 
gested from motives of piety, sometimes it is 
a grammatical correction or a supplementing 
of the older orthography, sometimes It is a 
critical emendation of what was considered a 
mistake in the text, and sometimes it seems to 
be a variant reading, either a reading from a 
parallel passage or a variant that has come 
down in another tradition. Some of these Qfre 
are quite ancient but others would seem to be 
very late and belong to the period of the 

B. Verse and Sense Divisions. Another 
feature of the work of the Sopherim of this 
period was the completion of the task of mark- 
ing verse and sense divisions in the text. Some 
simple form of paragraphing had appeared 


earlier, but to this period belongs the consistent 
carrying through of word division, and with it 
the consistent use of the final forms of letters 
1, D, j, i, ?. The fact that not only the Syriac 
version but also the Targums sometimes agree 
with the Septuagint word division and not with 
that of our printed Hebrew text indicates that 
this fixing of the word division was a gradual 
process. Verse divisions are assumed in the rab- 
binical prescription (Megillah 4:5) that in 
public reading the translator is to translate only 
one verse at a time from the Pentateuch, but 
may translate three verses at a time from the 
Prophets. Some system of marking verse end- 
ings was probably devised, and although the 
soph-pasuq sign of the printed text is mentioned 
only in late writings, it may have been used at 
an early period. 

It is clear that there was considerable differ- 
ence between the verse divisions used in Baby- 
lonia and those current in Palestine, and there 
may have been differences among the various 
schools within those countries, just as we find 
later in the schools of Basra, Kufa, and Damas- 
cus over the verse division of the Qur*dn. The 
Hebrew text used by Jerome had certain larger 
sense divisions marked by some form of para- 
graphing, probably like that of the pdrdshiyyoth 
mentioned in the Mishnah as subdivisions of 
the Law and the Prophets. The practice of 
reading regular "lessons" in the synagogue gave 
rise to liturgical divisions of the text divisions 
which might or might not coincide with some 
of the natural paragraphing divisions. The 
passage in Luke 4:16-21 does not prove that 
there were fixed pericopes from the Prophets 
read as lessons in the synagogue beside the les- 
sons from the Law, though it suggests that there 
was a recognized portion for the clay, and this 
suggestion is strengthened by the fact that the 
earliest Midrashim seem based on a system of 
fixed lessons from both the Law and the Proph- 
ets. Since the Mishnah does not regulate this 
matter, it may be that there was considerable 
latitude in the selection and arrangement of 
these pericopes. They would, however, tend to 
be marked in the text. 

C. Peculiarities of Orthography. Certain pe- 
culiarities of orthography the Sopherim appar- 
ently inherited with their standard copy and 
transmitted as an essential part of the text they 
had received. Some of these eccentricities seem 
to have existed at an early age. They include: 

(a) Anomalous forms, for example, Kin in- 
stead of ion in nearly two hundred places, 
mostly in the Pentateuch; some defective writ- 
ings, and some cases of the wrong insertion or 
omission of matres lectionis, as in Ps. 140:13; 
I Kings 8:48; Deut. 22:23, 28; 32:13; Hos. 4:6; 
8:12; 9:16; Mic. 3:2, 

(b) Literae majusculae et minusculae, for 
example, the extra large ^ in Deut. 32:4, or 
the extra small n in Gen. 2:4. There are said 
to be thirty cases of such majusculae and thirty- 
two cases of mmusculae. Sometimes the use of 
the large letters resembles our use of capitals, 
but frequently they seem to be nothing more 
than scribal peculiarities. 

(c) Literae suspensae, where certain letters 
are written above the line, that is, are as it were 
suspended, as in Judg. 18:30; Ps. 80:14; Job 
38-13, 15. 

(d) Inverted nun, where the letter : is in- 
verted and reversed, in Num. 10:35, 36; and 
seven times in Ps. 107. 

(e) Oddities, such as a final D in the middle 
of a word in Isa. 9:6; a i cut off in the middle 
in Num. 25-12; an initial D instead of a final in 
Neh. 2:13; an adhering p in Exod. 32:25; Num. 
7:2; an initial J instead of a final in Job 38: L 

Similar orthographical peculiarities may be 
noticed in the standard text of the Qur'dn, and 
the simplest explanation of them is to take 
them as scribal peculiarities in the ancient 
standard exemplar which later scribes regarded 
as sacrosanct, and therefore to be transmitted 
faithfully even in its peculiarities. 

IV. The Masoretes 

According to Aboth 3:13, R. Akiba used to 
speak of JYIDD as a fence to the Torah, and this 
word has given a name to those scholars who 
succeeded to the Sopherim, and who from 
about A.D, 500 onward concerned themselves 
with the safeguarding and transmission of the 
traditional text. They are the moon itya, the 
Masoretes. The name Masoretes is sometimes 
used to include all the work of the Sopherim, 
but is more commonly used in a narrower sense 
as a name for those who took up where the 
Sopherim left off, codifying and arranging what 
had already been done on text, and compiling 
the great apparatus of critical, comparative, 
interpretative, and statistical annotations that 
go under the name of the Masorah. Their labors 
led to several achievements. 

A. Statistical Masorah. There was a rab- 
binical conceit (Kiddushin 30#) that the 
Sopherim were so called because they counted 
the letters of the Torah. Though this derivation 
is unsound, it shows that the rabbis were aware 
that these scribes were using statistical devices 
as a help in checking the accuracy of transcrip- 
tion. The Indian scribes who copied the Vedas 
and the Moslem scribes who copied the Qur'dn 
used the same device. They counted the number 
of words, the number of letters, marked middle 
words and middle letters of passages or books, 
noted places where anomalous forms or note- 
worthy phenomena occurred. This practice may 



have begun early, but it was the Masoretes who 
gave it its definite form. They marked the 
middle verses of books, as at Josh. 13:26; Judg. 
10:8; Isa. 33:21; etc.; they indicated that the 
middle verse of the Old Testament is Jer. 6:7; 
they stated the number of letters in the various 
books; they marked with a "? the hapax lego- 
mena; they noted the number of times the 
divine name occurs; they made lists of places 
where a word is written fully or defectively; 
they recorded the number of occurrences of cer- 
tain grammatical peculiarities, and so forth. 
These annotations were later gathered together 
under special rubrics and recorded in the 
manuscripts. They are of textual importance 
not only because they served as checks to the 
scribes who were writing copies, but also be- 
cause they preserve evidence of these curious 
features of the text that was accepted as 

B. Exegetical Masorah. Since the Scriptures 
were read not as dead documents, but as part 
of the living religion of the people, an impor- 
tant task of those who cared for the transmission 
of the text was to ensure correct interpretation 
of the text as it was read. Various devices were 
used to secure this aim: 

(a) Text division. The paragraphing that 
had been introduced earlier was now systema- 
tized. The pdrdshiyyoth are carefully marked, 
the "open" by a fi (rnmfifi), and the "closed" 
by a D (mairiD) ; the "open" having a large 
blank space left before it commences, and the 
"closed" a small blank space. The manuscripts 
are uniform in the marking of these in the Law, 
though there is less regularity in the case of the 
Prophets and the Hagiographa. The Masoretes 
made lists of these sections with catchwords to 
indicate the beginning and closing of each. 
With the systematization of the form of worship 
in the synagogue came the custom of reading 
regular 'lessons" from the Law and the Proph- 
ets. Those from the Law were called S^dhdrtm; 
in Babylonia they were so arranged that the 
whole Pentateuch would be read through in a 
year, in Palestine for a three-year cycle. The 
schools differed somewhat as to where these 
divisions should fall, but marks were made in 
the manuscripts to indicate them. It was to be 
expected that they would correspond with some 
of the paragraphing divisions, and where they 
coincided with an "open" section they were 
marked by fiss, and when with a "closed" sec- 
tion, by ODD. These signs stand in the printed 

The verse divisions, which had been fluid at 
the time that the Greek and Syriac versions were 
made, the Masoretes attempted to fix, and they 
marked them with the Silluq and Soph pdsuq. 
The schools, however, differed on this matter, 

for we read in Kiddushin 30a that the Pales- 
tinians had shorter verses than the Babylonians. 
As early as the Septuagint translation there 
were rubrics at the beginnings of some books 
and parts of books, and these the Masoretes 
systematized. They also noted on the margins 
of the manuscripts the haphtdroth, or lessons 
from the Prophets, which were to be read in 
connection with each pdrdshdh of the Law. 

(b) Vocalization. The first step toward vocal- 
ization of the text had appeared in the use of 
the matres lectionis, or vowel letters, and this, 
when consistently carried through, was sufficient 
for an intelligent reading of the text. The 
modern Hebrew newspapers and printed books, 
just as the vast majority of Arabic and Syriac 
books, have no vocalization other than the 
vowel letters, and are familiarly read by anyone 
acquainted with the language. The scriptures, 
however, were sacred, and piety felt itself under 
obligation to avoid any possibility of misinter- 
pretation by inserting signs to mark the com- 
plete vocalization of each word. Jerome had 
felt the need for such signs, and apparently 
it was felt also in the schools of Babylonia. As 
early as the fifth century A.D. the Nestorians 
had worked out a system of pointing for their 
Syriac Bible, and their system was later adapted 
for use with the Arabic script. It was apparently 
in Babylonia in the sixth and seventh centuries 
A.D. that the Jewish schools, under the same in- 
fluence, began to work out their system of vocal- 
ization, with the intention of preserving the 
traditional pronunciation current among 
them. The Qaraites, who arose in the eighth 
century, presuppose in their controversy with 
the rabbinical schools a system of pointing 
known and observed, but we have no rabbinical 
tradition as to how it arose, save the later at- 
tempts to prove that the vowel points were 
given to Moses on Sinai. 

Three systems of vocalization are known to 
us: (i) a Palestinian, whose signs closely re- 
semble the Nestorian signs. It is known from 
manuscripts ranging from the sixth to the tenth 
centuries, and is a supralinear system, used at 
first only to point ambiguous words; (ii) a 
Babylonian, which is also a supralinear system, 
with signs that have certain points of contact 
with the Jacobite system used for Syriac, and 
may be a development from the Palestinian; 
(iii) a Tiberian, an infralinear system, probably 
of Mesopotamian origin, which is the system 
now in common use. Once the system of vocal- 
ization had been fixed, there grew up for it a 
statistical Masorah similar to that in use for 
the consonantal text. 

(c) Accentuation. A further system of signs 
was devised in order to show the reader correct 
pronunciation, and later, correct cantillation 



of the text. These signs mark the stress or accent 
where that is necessary, and serve, like our 
marks of punctuation, to guide the reader to 
the logical or syntactical relations of one part 
of a sentence to another. There are two tradi- 
tions with regard to this accentuation, a Baby- 
lonian and a Palestinian, the latter having two 
systems, one for the poetical and another for 
the prose books. They seem to be of the same 
age as the signs for vocalization, and their 
forms suggest that they were derived from 
similar signs used in Greek biblical manuscripts 
to regulate the public reading of the text. Later 
there grew up a statistical Masorah for the 

(d) Admonition. At places admonitory signs 
were placed in the text for the guidance of the 
reader. Thus where the words riK; to; nto; 
Dinto occur in senses other than that of the 
divine name, e.g., Gen. 19:2; 31:53; Deut. 32:17, 
21; etc., a sign ^n is set to call the attention of 
the reader to the fact that here the words are 
secular and do not demand the reverent treat- 
ment accorded to the divine name. At the con- 
clusion of Isaiah, Malachi, Lamentations, and 
Ecclesiastes the sign ppn> occurs, preceded by 
the beginning of the last verse but one, to warn 
the reader to go back and read that verse again 
so as to avoid finishing a pericope with some- 
thing of bad omen. 

C. Text-Critical Masorah. Other classes of 
notes in the Masorah are in the nature of crit- 
ical remarks on the text, indicating that though 
the Masoretes felt that they were committed to 
the transmission of a certain text tradition, 
they were aware that their text was not perfect, 
and knew that there were other text traditions 
whose readings sometimes differed from theirs. 
These notes are of several kinds: 

(a) The Q e ryan. We have already noticed 
that some of the Q e re notes are ancient, but a 
goodly proportion of those in our manuscripts 
seem to come from this later period of the 
Masoretes. In any case, their present arrange- 
ment and detail are due to the labors of the 

(b) The Sebhirim. C. D. Ginsburg collected 
some 350 of these from the manuscripts, and 
many are marked in our printed texts, e.g., 
Gen. 19:8, 33; 49:13; Exod. 22:24; Num. 8:4; 
9:6; II Kings 9:19. It is clear that they refer to 
variant readings, but whether they are intended 
to mark emendations to be adopted by the 
reader, or suggested emendations the reader is 
warned to avoid, or variants from other codices, 
is still a matter of dispute. 

(c) Variants. When the standard exemplar 
was chosen it was only one among many copies 
then existing, and variant readings from other 
early manuscripts would continue to be remem- 

bered, just as in the parallel case of the Qur'an. 
Moreover, even the greatest care taken with 
regard to transmission did not prevent variants 
from appearing in copies which were supposed 
to follow the standard exemplar, nor suppress 
the memory that there had been various tradi- 
tions on how the text should be voweled. The 
variants from the manuscript of R. Meir and 
from that in the Severian synagogue have al- 
ready been mentioned. The Masoretes collected 
and tabulated these variants, and listed other 
variants from famous old copies such as the 
Mahzdra* Rabbd', the Mugdh, the HilMi, the 
Zanbukt, the Jericho Pentateuch, the Sharqi 
(or Bab hit) , and so forth. There were differ- 
ences in tradition between the Babylonian and 
the Palestinian schools, and certain of their 
readings are recorded as Madinhay (Eastern) 
and Ma'arbay (Western) . Curiously enough, 
some of these variants have crept into the text 
where they can be recognized by the anomalous 

(d) The Pdseq (divider) . This sign occurs 
almost five hundred times in the printed text, 
and seems to belong to this class of Masoretic 
signs, though its origin and significance are 
still disputed. 

(e) Curiosa. Marks were also used by the 
Masoretes to call attention to various things 
they thought of interest in the text, such as the 
occurrence of redundant letters, the number of 
years covered by the events mentioned in a 
section, the fact that in Ruth all the verses save 
eight begin with the letter i. 

These Masoretic notes were written in the 
manuscripts, sometimes in the space between 
the columns, sometimes on the margins, and 
only later were they systematized. One form of 
systematization was to group the notes in the 
text. This took three forms: (i) Initial Masorah, 
that is, tabulations placed before the text 
proper begins, sometimes written in fantastic 
forms around the large initial letter of a book, 
(ii) Marginal Masorah, comprising the masora 
parva, a system of symbols written on the side 
margins, or between columns, or more rarely 
between the lines, and unintelligible without 
the key; and the masora magna, written on the 
upper and lower margins, (iii) Final Masorah, 
made up of tabulations, often arranged alpha- 
betically, placed at the end of the text. A second 
form of systematization was to digest these 
Masoretic notes into manuals such as the 
Okldh wa Okldh, or the Diqddqe ha-Te'amim, 
or the Minhath Shay. 

Since no two manuscripts ever have precisely 
the same collection of Masoretic notes, it is 
evident that the Masorah never reached the 
stage of fixation. Various strata within it can be 
recognized. There is an old period where the 


language is Hebrew, a middle period where the 
language is Aramaic, and a later period where 
the notes are again in Hebrew. Most of our 
Masoretic material is from the Palestine schools, 
but the work of Paul Kahle and his students 
has in recent years brought considerable acces- 
sions to our knowledge of the Masorah of the 
Babylonian schools. It was the school of Tibe- 
rias which finally came to dominate these 
textual studies. In the first half of the tenth 
century the tradition of the Tiberian school 
was embodied in two rival codices, one of 
Moses ben David ben Naphtali, the other of 
Aaron ben Moses ben Asher. The latter of 
these finally won acceptance, in spite of opposi- 
tion from Babylonia, and provided the textus 
receptus with which for all practical purposes 
the period of the Masoretes comes to a close. 
Later small improvements and additions by the 

Naqdanim made in the thirteenth and four- 
teenth centuries are of minor importance. Here 
we reach the printed text. Jacob ben liayyim 
ben Adonijah, who edited the second edition 
of the Bomberg Bible (Venice, 1524-25) , col- 
lated a great number of manuscripts and sys- 
tematized their Masoretic notes in an attempt 
to provide a definitive edition of this textus 
receptus. His critical method, however, was not 
faultless, and the Ben Asher text he produced 
is contaminated in places by that of Ben 

V. The Printed Text 

Jacob ben Ilayyim based his text on relatively 
late manuscripts. We have an abundance of 
manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament, 
some of them synagogue rolls, but the majority 
in codex form. The Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah 
may prove to be from the first century B.C.; 
otherwise the earliest manuscripts bear dates 
of the ninth and tenth centuries A.D., but there 
is doubt whether some of these are as old as 
they claim to be. Considerable collections 
of variants from these manuscripts have been 
gathered by Benjamin Kennicott, G. B. de Rossi 
and C, D. Ginsburg. In spite of their late date 
they are the basis for the printed text. The 
earliest printed part of the Bible was the 
Bologna Psalter of 1477. The early prints, how- 
ever, have only a typographical interest. Then 
we come to the Bomberg Bible printed at 
Venice in 1524-25. Jacob ben Hayyim's work 
on that edition has been the foundation on 
which most later printed editions have been 
based. Ginsburg's texts, both that of 1894 and 
that of 1926, and the first and second editions 
of Rudolf Kittel's Biblia Hebraica, started 
from the Ben Hayyim text. The first Christian 
edition of the Hebrew text was that in Cardinal 
Ximtnes* Complutensian Polyglot of 1520. The 


Amsterdam editions of Athias (1661) and Leums- 
den (1667) were based on a comparison of the 
Complutensian text with the Ben IJayyira text. 
A new edition of the Amsterdam text by Van 
der Hooght in 1795, and revised by Letteris in 
1852, is the commonly used text that has for 
the last century been circulated by the British 
and Foreign Bible Society. For the third edition 
of Kittel's Biblia Hebraica, Paul Kahle used the 
Leningrad manuscript, which is a very accurate 
copy of the ben Asher type of text, and presents 
the best Hebrew Bible so far available. N. H. 
Snaith is at present engaged in preparing for 
the British and Foreign Bible Society a new 
text to replace the Letteris edition, and which 
will seek, both to get behind the Ben Hayyim 
model to a more correct Masoretic text, and at 
the same time avoid the too great reliance on 
one manuscript, which some scholars feel is a 
defect in the work of both Baer and Kahle. A 

large edition of the Hebrew Bible is also being 
planned by a group of scholars at the Hebrew 
University of Jerusalem. 

VI. The Ancient Versions 

The early versions are important for the his- 
tory of the text in so far as they provide evi- 
dence of the type of text from which they were 
translated. In the case of the Old Testament we 
are in the position of having manuscripts of 
certain of the versions considerably older than 
the majority of our manuscripts of the Hebrew 
text. The versions, however, present their own 
problem. Each of them has its individual textual 
history. In the process of transmission they 
were subject to the same sources of textual cor- 
ruption as was the Hebrew text, were redacted, 
emended, interpolated, so that the recovery ol 
their original forms, which alone would be evi- 
dence of the type of text from which they were 
translated, is a critical problem of great delicacy. 
These versions, moreover, are more often than 
not the work of several hands, and translators 
vary enormously in their method of translation, 
a fact which in its turn affects the possibility of 
restoring the original underlying the transla- 
tion. We still lack satisfactory critical editions 
of most parts of all these early versions. 

A. The Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samari- 
tan Pentateuch is not really a version, being the 
Hebrew text written out in Samaritan charac- 
ters, and so only a Samaritan recension. It 
differs from the text of our printed Hebrew 
Bibles in some six thousand places, in about 
a third of which it agrees with the Septuagint, 
and in some cases with the Syriac and Latin 
versions. Many of the variants are nothing but 
scribal errors, and of these a goodly number 
are due to confusions among those letters 
which the Samaritans no longer distinguished 



in pronunciation. Some are brought about by 
a fuller use o the matres lectionis, and so are 
also merely orthographic variants. Others arise 
from the desire of the copyist to avoid anthro- 
pomorphisms, to remove anomalous forms, to 
harmonize passages, to make grammatical cor- 
rections or to correct mistakes in the Hebrew 
text, or to express the meaning more clearly or 
forcefully. Some variants represent a deliberate 
tampering with the text in favor of Samaritan 
views, for example, the substitution of Geri- 
zim for Ebal in Deut. 27:4, and other such 
changes and interpolations intended to em- 
phasize the importance of their shrine in 
Samaria as against that in Jerusalem. Other 
interpolations are due to material being sup- 
plied from parallel passages. When allowance 
has been made for all such variants, there still 
remains a body of readings where the Samaritan 
text presents a different textual tradition. In 
some cases we may be dealing with glosses that 
represent a traditional exegesis within the com- 
munity, and it is possible that some cases repre- 
sent dialectal peculiarities. There remain, how- 
ever, a good many passages where the textual 
critic must take into consideration the possi- 
bility that the Samaritan presents a better and 
more likely original reading than the Masoretic 
text, particularly where such readings agree 
with one of the other versions. No one of the 
manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch ap- 
pears to be older than the thirteenth century, 
but they would seem to represent a text current 
in the second century. The best edition is the 
five- volume work of August von Gall (1914-18) . 

The Samareitikon, quoted some fifty times in 
the scholia to Origen's Hexapla, would seem to 
refer to a Greek rendering made in Egypt of 
material from the Samaritan Pentateuch. The 
Samaritan Targum is a version of the Penta- 
teuch in Samaritan Aramaic. It cannot be ear- 
lier than the fourth century A.D. It has striking 
agreements with the Targum of Onkelos, but 
also striking differences, and so is probably a 
local rendering of a common oral Palestinian 
tradition. It has no great value for textual 
studies. The Samaritan book of Joshua is not 
the Hebrew Joshua but an apocryphal work. 

B. The Aramaic Targums. In the true sense, 
the earliest versions of any portion of the Old 
Testament were Aramaic translations. They 
were produced to meet the needs of Jewish 
communities whose knowledge of Hebrew was 
insufficient to make fully intelligible to them 
the scripture as read in public or in private. 
Aramaic is a language closely akin to Hebrew 
but sufficiently different from it to make docu- 
ments in the one language unintelligible to 
people who spoke colloquially only the other. 
From the eighth century B.C. Aramaic had be- 

gun to spread widely in the Near East and 
gradually to supersede the other Semitic lan- 
guages both in popular and in official use. We 
find it appearing even in the text of the Hebrew 
Bible in certain chapters of Ezra and Daniel. 
The documents surviving to us from the Jewish 
community that dwelt at Elephantine in the 
Persian period are in Aramaic; a number of 
Aramaic expressions are used in the New Testa- 
ment, and it is the language of the Gemara of 
the Talmud. Where Jewish communities were 
predominantly Aramaic speaking there would 
arise the need of translation from Hebrew into 
the locally spoken Aramaic. Perhaps we may see 
a beginning of this practice in Neh. 8:8, where 
it says, "They read the book of the law of God 
distinctly, and they gave the sense so that they 
understood the reading." 

The word Targum means "translation." In 
early cuneiform inscriptions we read of the 
targamanti who interpreted for foreigners at the 
court, and who was the forerunner of the mod- 
ern consular dragoman. His translations were 
for the most part oral, and it would seem that in 
Jewish circles the Turg^mdn or M e thurg e mdn 
at first stood by the reader, and as the scripture 
was read, gave the sense in the local Aramaic 
dialect. Before long the office became so im- 
portant as to need regulation. The regulation 
is recorded in Megilla 4:4, which says the trans- 
lation is to be verse by verse for the Law, and 
section by section for the Prophets. This prac- 
tice died out only when Aramaic itself ceased 
to be the vernacular of the congregations. The 
Targums which have survived are all of Pales- 
tinian origin. Undoubtedly the rendering was 
at first quite free, each Methurgemdn making 
his translation as he went along. In time, how- 
ever, conventional ways of translating various 
passages would come to be recognized as the ac- 
cepted Targum. For long there was a strong 
prejudice against writing these Targums, and 
when they did come to be written down, they 
represented the labors of many minds, even 
though the actual fixing of the form may have 
been the work of one man. Neither Origen nor 
Jerome seems to have known of any written 
Targum, though we have reference to a written 
Targum on Job in the days of Gamaliel I. The 
most important Targum was that on the Penta- 
teuch. There seems to have been an old para- 
phrastic Targum to the Pentateuch of the sec- 
ond century A.D., which has come down to us in 
two forms. In Babylonia it was worked over 
both in language and in form, and under the 
name of Targum of Onkelos became the official 
Babylonian Targum. It is on the whole a 
literal translation, turning to paraphrase only 
in the poetical portions, but it was brought 
into conformity with the text fixed by Akiba's 



school, and edited to remove all anthropomor- 
phisms and expressions thought to be unseemly. 
A Masorah grew up in connection with this 
Targum. In Palestine itself the older Targum 
had a final redaction in the seventh century to 
form the Targum of pseudo-Jonathan. Both in 
diction and content this more closely resembles 
the older Targum than does that of Onkelos. 
It was the Jerusalem Targum. Fragments of an- 
other Jerusalem Targum have survived, though 
it is difficult to say whether it represents a 
separate Targum or another recension of some 
of the pseudo-Jonathan material The chief 
Targum to the Prophets also received its final 
form in Babylonia, though it originated in 
Palestine. It is probably of the second century, 
and goes under the name of Jonathan ben 
Uzziel, though in its present form it cannot be 
earlier than the fifth century. Portions of a 
Jerusalem Targum to the Prophets are also 
extant. The Targums to the Hagiographa seem 
to be of Palestinian origin. Those to Psalms and 
Job are early and contain a number of variants 
from the Masoretic text, some of which agree 
with the Septuagint or the Peshitta. That on 
Proverbs is but a working over of the Peshitta 
version. To Esther there are two Targums 
which, like those to the Megilloth in general, 
are in the nature of haggadic paraphrase. There 
is a haggadic Targum to Chronicles, but appar- 
ently none to Ezra-Nehemiah or to Daniel. 

C. The Greek Versions. Although the his- 
tory of the Greek versions is for the most part 
a history of their use in the Christian church, 
they were produced in the first instance to 
serve Jewish groups, particularly those in the 
Diaspora, whose language of daily intercourse 
and of literary expression was Greek. That 
such groups normally used Greek in connection 
with their religious life is made evident by the 
number of tombstone and synagogue inscrip- 
tions that are in Greek, Paul on his missionary 
journeys addressed congregations of Jewish peo- 
ple in Greek. The writer of the Epistle to the 
Hebrews, like the writer of the encyclical letter 
of I Peter, in addressing Jews of the Diaspora 
uses Greek. Doubtless in all these communities 
there would have been some who understood 
Hebrew, but there would also have been many 
who would need a translation of the Hebrew 
scriptures into the locally used Greek. As in the 
case of the Aramaic Targum this need would 
in all probability have been met at first by 
someone standing up by the reader and making 
a running translation verse by verse, or section 
by section, as the scripture was read. The Greek 
version would thus have begun as a Greek 
Targum. Since Alexander's time, however, 
Greek had come to be more and more a world 

language, and we cannot set aside the possi- 
bility that some Jewish groups, quite apart from 
practical considerations within the community, 
might have wished to have their scripture made 
available to non-Jews in the Greek, which was 
the cultural language of their day. 

It would seem that the need for a Greek 
version of the Hebrew scriptures first became 
apparent in Egypt, for -it is there that from 
about the middle of the third century B.C. we 
begin to come upon traces of such versions. 
They were not official versions, and at times 
they seem to be somewhat paraphrastic render- 
ings of the Hebrew. Apparently the Law was 
the first section to receive attention and to be 
translated with considerable care. Different 
translations of the Law circulated in written 
form, and about the middle of the second cen- 
tury B.C. an attempt was made to supersede 
them by an official version of the Law in Greek. 
The Letter of Aristeas (ca. 110 B.C.), which 
purports to be an account of the way in which 
a translation into Greek was made by seventy- 
two learned elders from Palestine for the royal 
library of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) , 
is really an account of this later venture. It 
makes quite clear (a) that there were in use 
among the Jews of Egypt certain Greek versions 
of the Law which for one reason or another 
were considered to be unsatisfactory; (b) that 
at Alexandria a "revision committee" had made 
a concerted effort to produce a more satisfactory 
version; and (c) that a serious attempt was 
made to have this revised version generally 

From the story of the seventy-two translators 
this version later came to bear the name Septua- 
gint (LXX) . Both Philo and Josephus speak of 
it in words of high praise; Philo, indeed, goes 
so far as to say that its authors were not mere 
translators but could justly be called prophets. 
Not so long after this, however, we find the 
rabbis asserting that the day on which the elders 
wrote out the Law for Ptolemy in Greek was 
disastrous for Israel. There are two reasons for 
this change of opinion. The first is that mean- 
while, under the influence of Akiba's school, a 
new recension of the Hebrew text had been 
made, so that the Greek whose fidelity to the 
older form of Hebrew text had filled Philo with 
amazement was now outdated. Second, the 
Christian church had taken over the Greek 
translation as its own text of the Old Testa- 
ment, and had applied the name "Septuagint" 
(previously used only for the Law) to all parts 
of the Greek Bible, including the books which 
had received no place in the Hebrew canon 
fixed at Jamnia. Moreover, the church in its 
preaching was insistent that this Greek text was 



the authentic word of God. As a result of these 
developments, the Jews made new Greek trans- 
lations which followed the newly established 
Hebrew text, and since they took no further 
interest in the Septuagint, the history of this 
Greek version from then on became that of a 
text transmitted in the Christian community by 
the hands of Christian scribes. 

Though the Law was the first part to be 
translated into Greek, and may have been cir- 
culating as early as 250 B.C., we have evidence 
of a Greek version of other parts of the Old 
Testament early in the second century B.C V 
and the grandson of Jesus ben Sirach, writing 
about 130 B.C., mentioned "the Law, and the 
Prophets, and the rest of the books" as current 
in a Greek version. To judge by the Septuagint 
that has come down to us, the historical books 
were translated with much more freedom than 
had been the case with the Law, and the trans- 
lators of the Prophets frequently gave a mere 
paraphrase of the text. The Psalter has been 
well translated, though an extra psalm was 
added to the collection. The rest of the Hagiog- 
rapha give the impression of having been trans- 
lated as individual books at different times and 
by different hands. A number of details suggest 
that though the Law and most of the Hagiog- 
rapha were translated in Egypt, the Prophets 
may have been translated in Asia. 

As the Septuagint continued to be copied by 
Christian scribes, it did not escape the usual 
types of scribal corruption. In places, indeed, 
there was a little tampering with the text in 
the interests of Christian teaching. For example, 
in Ps. 96:10 (LXX 95:10) some scribes added 
drr6 uXou to the words 6 Kuptoq pcccrfAeuaev to 
make it clear that the reference is to the Mes- 
siah ruling from the cross. What is more im- 
portant, however, is that no uniform text of the 
Septuagint circulated in the early church. 
Origen was well aware of this, as well as of the 
fact that the texts used in the church by no 
means represented the Hebrew text in the 
hands of the Jews, whereas there were other 
Greek translations which did follow that text, 
Origen, therefore, set himself to gather materials 
as a basis for providing a uniform text of the 
Greek Old Testament for use in the church. 
This was his great Hexapla, in whose six col- 
umns he assembled the Hebrew text used by 
his Jewish teachers, a Greek transliteration of 
the same, the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, 
and Theodotion, and a text of the Christian 
Septuagint with his own critical emendations. 
For some of the books, where he had the mate- 
rial, he added a fifth, sixth, and even seventh 
Greek version. His own work was in the fifth 
column, and he carefully marked his emenda- 

tions and his critical work on the text. This 
was not his critical edition of the Septuagint, 
but only his preparation for such an edition. 
Later scribes, however, most unfortunately 
treated this fifth column as though it were a 
true Septuagint text, and copied it without in- 
cluding the critical signs. Thus, we do not know 
what manuscripts Origen used for the text of 
his fifth column. Moreover, except for those 
passages where we have help from the Syro- 
Hexapla or some other source, we are unable to 
distinguish with certainty between his text and 
his emendations. 

Origen was not the only scholar who at- 
tempted a revision of the Septuagint. When 
Jerome took up his work in the fourth century, 
there were four types of text of the Greek Old 
Testament in circulation: (a) the unrevised 
text as it had been circulating in various forms 
before Origen's day; (b) the hexaplarian text 
that had been derived from Origen's fifth col- 
umn; (c) a recension made by Lucian of Anti- 
och, about 300, which appears to have been 
much used in the area between Antioch and 
Constantinople; and (d) a Hesychian revision, 
of approximately the same date as that of 
Lucian, which was in use in Egypt. Manuscripts 
of the Septuagint are numerous, but it is only 
in modern times that research has reached a 
point where it is possible to classify them ac- 
cording to their type and lay the foundation for 
a critical edition. 

Of the three versions made from the revised 
Hebrew text of the first century A.D., and 
utilized by Origen in his Hexapla, only frag- 
ments survive. That made by Aquila of Pontus, 
about 130 A.D., apparently under the influence 
of the school of Akiba, was an extremely literal 
translation, so literal that it is not Greek but 
jargon, rendering the Hebrew into Greek word 
by word with no regard for Greek idiom. That 
of Symmachus the Ebionite, made about 170, 
is in good Greek, and was highly regarded by 
Jerome. Both Symmachus and Aquila translated 
directly from the Hebrew text, but the new 
version of Theodotion, about 185, was rather 
a revision of an earlier Greek translation in the 
light of the current Hebrew text. What survives 
of these was printed by Frederick Field in his 
edition of Origen's Hexapla, and only small 
fragments have come to light since that time. 

JD. The Syriac Versions. Just as Greek-speak- 
ing Jews and Christians needed an Old Testa- 
ment in Greek, so Syriac-speaking Jews and 
Christians came to need a version in their 
vernacular. All the early Syriac manuscripts 
represent a version which has been known 
since the ninth century as the Peshitta ("com- 
mon" or "simple"). These manuscripts come 



from the fifth and sixth centuries, but the 
quotations in Aphraates and Ephraem Syrus 
represent the same version, which was clearly 
the text commonly used in the Syriac-speak- 
ing churches from the fourth century onward, 
and may have originated as early as the 
second century. Of its origin we know nothing. 
Even so great a scholar as Theodore of Mop- 
suestia (d. 428) did not know when or by whom 
it was made. Nor do we know whether its name 
means "common" in the sense of a vulgate 
edition, or "simple," in contrast with the Syro- 
Hexapla. Its manuscript tradition is not uni- 
form, but the version gradually took on a 
stereotyped form in the language of Edessa, 
which was used for a great proportion of Syriac 
ecclesiastical literature. A number of details 
suggest that it was originally a Jewish version, 
perhaps at first a Syriac Targum, but it was 
taken over by the Syriac-speaking Christians, 
and in its transmission has been influenced by 
the Septuagint. The translation is by different 
hands and varies considerably in the different 
books. The translation of the Pentateuch is 
fairly literal, whereas that of Ruth is a mere 
paraphrase. There is a Masorah to the Peshitta 
which, however, differs somewhat in Jacobite 
manuscripts from what is given in Nestorian 
manuscripts. There is no Masorah to Chron- 
icles, Ezra-Nehemiah, or Esther, a fact which 
suggests that they were later additions to the 
Syriac Bible. The text of Chronicles, indeed, 
resembles a Targum. The text of the Peshitta 
has been more than once revised but never in a 
systematic fashion. 

The manuscripts present considerable variety 
in the number of books and in the order in 
which they are placed. Some manuscripts have, 
after the Pentateuch, a Liber Sessionum, com- 
prising the books of Joshua, Judges, Job, Sam- 
uel and Kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, Eccle- 
siastes, Ruth, and Song of Songs. In other manu- 
scripts Ruth, Esther, Judith, and Susannah are 
grouped together as the Book of Women. The 
Psalter is commonly found divided into twenty 
sections. Many manuscripts contain as well a 
variety of pseudepigraphic works. 

The Peshitta was translated from the Hebrew, 
but all the other Syriac versions were made from 
the Septuagint Paul of Telia in 616-17 trans- 
lated into Syriac Origen's Hexapla, which is the 
above-mentioned Syro-Hexapla. Of these other 
versions, whether Nestorian or Jacobite, and of 
the Melkite version known as the Christian- 
Palestinian, we have only fragments. 

E. The Latin Versions. Very little is known 
about the origin of the Latin versions save that 
they were translated from the Septuagint. Latin 
was the vernacular of the church in North 

Africa westward from Cyrenaica, and apparently 
a number of Latin translations of various parts 
of the Old Testament were produced in the 
second century for the use of Christian com- 
munities in this area. Only fragments of these 
remain. The text underlying them has some 
striking resemblances to the type of text we 
find in Lucian's recension of the Greek. Jerome 
made a revision of this Old Latin translation. 
At first he labored at revising it from the 
Septuagint, but later he worked from the He- 
brew text. His Vulgate, however, is not a direct 
translation from the Hebrew, for he felt obliged 
to consider the feelings of a church used to the 
Old Latin translations, and consequently he 
used the Old Latin and the Greek versions as 
well as the Hebrew, and thus produced a curi- 
ously mixed text. It met with considerable op- 
position when it appeared, but by the seventh 
century it had become the Bible of the Roman 
Church. It has undergone several recensions, 
and a truly critical edition of it is now in 

F. The Coptic Versions. The Christians of 
Egypt, like the Egyptian Jews, used the Greek 
Bible. With the spread of Christianity among 
communities less familiar with Greek there 
came the need of a translation into the vernacu- 
lar of the people. In the third and fourth 
centuries a number of translations of portions 
of the Bible were made into different dialects 
of Coptic. The first to attain a fixed form was 
that in the Sahidic dialect of Upper Egypt. It 
was made from the Septuagint, perhaps from 
the Hesychian recension, though there has 
been revision from the Hebrew, or from some 
source that knew the Hebrew. As various books 
were translated at different times by different 
hands, we should perhaps speak of the Sahidic 
versions. Later came a translation into the 
Bohairic dialect of Lower Egypt. This is the 
version which is used today in the Coptic 
churches. There are fragments of translations 
into other dialects, such as the Fayyumic of 
Middle Egypt, and the Akhmimic, formerly 
spoken around Akhmim in Upper Egypt. 

G. The Armenian Version, This is a uni- 
form version made from the Septuagint in the 
fifth century for the use of the national Ar- 
menian church. Legend tells of early saints 
laboring at a translation from the Syriac, but 
the current version is clearly a translation from 
Greek manuscripts of the hexaplarian type, 
though this has been revised from the Peshitta 
so as to supplement and correct the Septuagint. 
In places it supports the Septuagint against the 
Peshitta, and in places it follows the Masoretic 
text against both, so that some have thought 
that its revisers must have used the Hebrew also. 



The manuscripts differ widely in extent and 
arrangement. Various groups of apocryphal 
and pseudepigraphic material are included in 
most manuscripts, and commonly the manu- 
scripts have prefaces to the various books. 

H. The Arabic Versions. It is not certain 
that any portion of the Bible was translated 
into Arabic before the Moslem conquest in the 
seventh century. After the Moslem conquest 
Arabic translations were needed by both Jewish 
and Christian communities, and we have a be- 
wildering variety of translations of various 
portions of the Bible, some made directly from 
the Hebrew, others from the Greek, Syriac, 
Coptic, Samaritan, and even from the Latin. 
We read of John I, Jacobite patriarch of Anti- 
och (d. 648), laboring at such a translation; 
and another John, bishop of Seville in Spain 
(ca. 724) , is said to have made one for Arabi- 
cized Christians and Moors in the West. Moslem 
writers refer to a number of Arabic versions 
made in the ninth and tenth centuries. For the 
Jews, Saadia Gaon (d. 942) made a translation 
of most of the books of the Old Testament. It 
is a free translation, frequently following the 
Targums, and is curious in that it has a tend- 
ency to use Arabic technical terms, and to re- 
place biblical place names by others more fa- 
miliar to his contemporaries. Saadia's version 
was used by the Samaritans in making their 
Arabic version from the Samaritan Pentateuch; 
the Qaraites, however, rejected it, and made 
numerous translations of their own. The trans- 
lations from Greek, Syriac, and Coptic are all 
Christian, some Nestorian, some Jacobite, and 
some Melkite. The most famous of them is that 
which bears the name of Ibn al-Assal. Critical 
work on the Arabic versions has only begun. 

/. The Ethiopic Version. This is a Christian 
version made originally from the Septuagint 
for the use of the native church of Abyssinia. 
Some translation work would seem to have been 
done as early as the fifth century, but the texts 
we have represent later translations by several 
hands, some of whom used the Syriac, and per- 
haps also the Hebrew, as an aid in their en- 
deavor to give a faithful rendering of the text. 
The work was probably completed before the 
eighth century, but was afterwards revised on 
the basis of Arabic versions, so that all the 
extant manuscripts present a mixed text. This 
version has, even from early times, included a 
number of writings, such as Jubilees and Enoch, 
not usually included in the canon of the Old 

K. The Georgian Version. In its early days 
the Georgian church depended very largely on 
the Armenian church. For this reason its Bible 
is a translation from the Armenian, though it 

has been influenced by the Syriac in revision 
even more than the Armenian itself. The trans- 
lation dates from the fifth century and is by 
many hands. There have been various later 
recensions, at least of some of the books, but 
too little critical work has been done on this 
version to permit any certain conclusions as to 
its history. 

Other versions in these various languages, as 
in other languages of the East and the West, 
are too late to be of any interest for the recovery 
of the text. 

L. Conclusion. In spite of these defects the 
older versions are useful tools to the student 
of the Old Testament, providing him with 
valuable evidence on such important matters as 
text, exegesis, and canon. 

(a) A translation presupposes a text from 
which it has been translated, and it is often 
possible to reconstruct with a fair degree of 
accuracy the original text from which a passage 
has been translated. Manuscripts, even of books 
of Scripture, are subject in transmission to ac- 
cident, to interpolation, to alteration, and to 
various types of textual corruption. In the case 
of the Old Testament, many manuscripts of the 
versions, which are much older than most of the 
manuscripts of the Hebrew text, at times reveal 
places where lacunae, conflations or transposi- 
tions, and other kinds of scribal confusions and 
alterations have affected the present Hebrew 

For example, in Josh. 15:59; Judg. 16:13ff.; 
I Sam. 12:8; 14:42, lacunae in the Hebrew text, 
due apparently to homoeoteleuton, can be sup- 
plied from the Greek. In Gen. 4:8, the words of 
Cain are not given, though the no KM leads us 
to expect them. The Samaritan text supplies, 
"Let us go into the field/' and this is the reading 
in the Septuagint, the Targum, the Peshitta, 
and the Latin of both the Vulgate and Jerome. 
In II Sam. 24:6, "unto the land of Tahtim- 
hodshi" is meaningless, but the Greek, "unto 
the land of the Hittites, even to Kadesh/' en- 
ables us to correct it&nn d'nnn to rmp n>nnn. 
In Job 7:20, we have a scribal alteration of the 
text from motives of piety, which makes our 
text represent Job as saying, "I am a burden to 
myself." The Greek 4-rri aoi, however, shows that 
the present awkward *ty was originally -pty, 
"unto thee." In Ps. 16:2 our text reads mttK, 
"thou hast said," and so the King James Version 
has to supply "O my soul" to explain the 
feminine singular. The Septuagint (15:2) has 
et-rra, "I said/' that is, *mK, which gives us 
the original reading. In Prov. 10:10&, "but a 
prating fool shall fall" has been copied by the 
sciibe from vs. 8& in mistake for the original 
ending of this verse. The original ending, how- 



ever, is preserved in the Septuagint, 
uercc Trappnaiocc, efpnvo-rroie?. 

Both the Septuagint and the Peshitta show 
in many passages that the text before their 
translators was in scriptio continua without word 
separation, for the translator has divided in a 
way which makes sense (sometimes better sense) 
but which is different from the way in which 
the words are separated in rhe standard Hebrew 
text For example, in Jer. 46.15 our text reads 
*|HDJ jm, but the Septuagint scfjuyev 6 carte, 
shows that they divided it in DJ jrno, "why hath 
Apis fled? 1 ' In Ps. 44-4 our text reads m* Dnte, 
but the Septuagint 6 90(; JJLOU, 6 ^vreAXoiiEvoc, 
shows that they divided it ms rrX as did the 

There are also many places where the versions 
show that in the text before the translator the 
matres lectionis were used differently from the 
way in which we find them in our present He- 
brew text. For example, in Job 19:18 our text 
has fi^ny, "young children," but the Septuagint 
eic, TOV atcovoc assumes a text t^ny. In the super- 
scription to Ps. 5 we have m^rwrto, "on wind 
instruments/' but the Septuagint uTrep Tfjc, 
"f r an inheritance/' assumes 

(b) A translator is endeavoring to give the 
meaning of the text before him, so that his 
translation shows how he himself understood 
the text and possibly how it was generally un- 
derstood in his day or in his area. As he stands 
many generations nearer the original than we 
do, his understanding of the text before him 
can often aid us in matters of exegesis. For 
example, in Dan. 10:1 the King James Version 
follows the later Jewish commentators in trans- 
lating ^nj ICSM as "but the time appointed was 
long." The Greek versions, the Peshitta, and 
the Vulgate, however, show that tm was taken 
in their day to have its usual meaning of "force/' 
and the Revised Standard Version has gone back 
to this by translating "great conflict." 

(c) Finally, a version is useful in throwing 
light on such questions as the arrangement and 
order of books within the collection, the pres- 
ence or absence of certain books in one locality 
or another, and at times can give us evidence 
as to the type of text in use in different areas 
at different periods. 

VII. Selected Bibliography 

BUHL, FRANTS Article, "Bible Text/' in S. M. 
Jackson, ed. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclo- 
pedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908. Vol. II, 
pp. 94-99. 

. Canon and Text of the Old Testament, tr. 

John Macpherson. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 

DRIVFR, S. R. Notes on the Hebrew Text of the 
Books of Samuel Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890. 

GEDEN, A S. Outlines of Introduction to the Hebrew 
Bible. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1909. 

GTNSBURG, C. H. Introduction to the Masoretico- 
Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible. London: 
Trinitarian Bible Society, 1897. 

GORDIS, ROBERT. The Biblical Text in the Making. 
Philadelphia: Dropsie College for Hebrew & 
Cognate Learning, 1937. 

GOTTHEIL, RICHARD. Articles, "Bible Editions" and 
"Bible Translations," in The Jewish Encyclo- 
pedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1906. Vol. 
Ill, pp. 154-62, 185-97. 

KAHLE, PAUL. The Cairo Geniza. London: British 
Academy, 1947. 

KENNEDY, JAMES. An Aid to the Textual Amend- 
ment of the Old Testament. Edinburgh: T. & T. 
Clark, 1928. 

KENYON, FREDERIC GEORGE. Recent Developments in 
the Textual Criticism of the Greek Bible. London: 
British Academy, 1933. 

-. The Text of the Greek Bible. London: 

Duckworth, 1937. 
NAVILLE, E. H. The Text of the Old Testament. 

London: British Academy, 1916. 
NESTLE, E. Article, "Bible Versions," in S. M. 

Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. 

New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908. Vol. II, pp. 

OTTLEY, R. R. A Handbook to the Septuagint. 

London: Methuen & Co., 1920. 
REIDER, JOSEPH. Prolegomena to a Greek-Hebrew 

and Hebrew-Greek Index to Aquila. Philadelphia: 

Dropsie College for Hebrew & Cognate Learning, 


ROBERTS, B. J. The Old Testament Text and Ver- 
sions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1951. 
STRACK, H. L. Article, "Text of the Old Testament/' 

in James Hastings, ed. Dictionary of the Bible. 

New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904. VoL IV, 

pp. 726-32. 
SWETE, H. B. An Introduction to the Old Testament 

in Greek. Cambridge: University Press, 1914. 
WEIR, T, H A Short History of the Hebrew Text 

of the Old Testament. London: Williams & Nor- 

gate, 1899. 




I. Early Collections 
II. The First New Testament 

III. Early Alexandrian Canons 

IV. The Times of Origen 
V. Eusebius of Caesarea 

VI. Egypt in the Fourth Century 

A. The Clermont Manuscript List 

B. Athanasius 

C. Coptic New Testaments 

D. Greek Uncial Codices 

Christianity originated and developed in the 
presence of the Jewish scriptures, or what we 
know as the Old Testament, first in their orig- 
inal Hebrew but very soon in the Greek version 
of them which we call the Septuagint. It was 
this Greek form of the Jewish scriptures, in- 
cluding as it did the books known as the Apoc- 
rypha, that became the basis of the Bible of the 
early church, and was gradually supplemented 
by a collection of Christian writings which we 
know as the New Testament. How did this 
Christian collection arise? What steps can we 
trace in its origin and growth? These books 
were written in Greek at various stages of the 
progress of the Greek mission, and they came to 
be accepted as a standard list or canon of Chris- 
tian authorities. But what led to their collection 
into a definite body, and their association with 
the older Jewish scriptures in what we know as 
the Bible? The story of their collection and 
authorization is called the history of the canon. 

I. Early Collections 

That the early church should have made itself 
an authoritative scripture and placed it side by 
side with the Old Testament is from some 
points of view strange. It already had an ex- 
tensive literature in the Jewish scriptures, which 
did not yet form a single book, as with us, but 
took the form of twenty-five or thirty separate 
scrolls. The basic conviction of primitive Chris- 
tianity, moreover, was that it possessed an inner 
guide, the Spirit of God, the mind of Christ, far 
superior to written rules and records. Yet de- 
spite these facts, it gradually came to acknowl- 

VII. The Syriac New Testament 

A. Tatian 

B. Afrahat and Efrem 

C. Rabbula and the Peshitta New Testament 

D. Later Syriac Versions 
VIII. The Work of the Councils 

IX. Further Developments 
X. New Testament Apocrypha 
XI. Selected Bibliography 

edge a Christian collection of books, which it 
revered just as much as it did the old Hebrew 
scriptures, and even more, for as Adolf von 
Harnack observed, the Old Testament was 
always interpreted to agree with the New, not 
the New to agree with the Old. 

The books of the New Testament were not 
recognized as scripture from the moment of 
their origin, but came only gradually to such 
recognition. The letters of Paul were written to 
meet definite acute situations in the life of the 
Pauline churches, and when those situations 
had passed the letters lost interest for the next 
generation. It is a striking fact that the Gospels 
of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and even the Acts 
of the Apostles show no acquaintance with the 
letters of Paul. But the Revelation of John 
reflects them in a startling manner, for though 
it is an apocalypse it opens with a collection of 
Christian letters to churches, seven in number, 
preceded by a general letter to all seven. These 
letters were not really sent individually to the 
churches addressed in them, and then later 
reassembled by the writer through an after- 
thought; they were frankly and obviously writ- 
ten as a collection, and published as the portal 
of the Revelation. The writer has evidently seen 
the Pauline collection of seven letters to Chris- 
tian churches and has been so impressed that he 
makes that literary device the facade of his 
apocalypse. The fact that he begins with a gen- 
eral letter to all seven strongly suggests that 
the Pauline collection as he knew it, toward A.D. 
95, began with a general letter to all seven of 
the churches Paul wrote to; and indeed Ephe- 


sians is most naturally understood as just such 
a general letter. (See Vol. IX, pp. 356-58 and on 
Ephesians, Vol. X.) 

The letter of Clement of Rome to the Corin- 
thians, written about A,D. 95, also gives clear 
evidence of acquaintance with a collection of 
Paul's letters, which probably included Ephe- 
sians, Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, 
Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, 
and Philemon, the last being included as a 
church letter to the Laodicearis. This made a 
collection of ten letters to seven churches, Ephe- 
sians being the introductory letter to Christians 
generally. This letter collection was not thought 
of as scripture. It was read for its religious 
value, with no thought as yet that it was 
authoritative or inspired. 

The rise of the Synoptic Gospels Mark and 
the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke so largely 
based upon it between A.D. 70 and 90 was 
followed soon alter A.D. 100 by the Gospel of 
John, in which the gospel narrative wa*> strongly 
colored by ideas gatheied Irom the collected 
letters of Paul. The new GospeLwas designed 
to meet the religious ueeds-of the Greek public 
which had become the field of the Christian 
mission, and soon after its appearance, certainly 
by A.D. 120, it was combined with the three 
earlier Gospels into the great quartet we 
know so well. The primary object of making 
and publishing this collection was to bring the 
immense religious values of all the Gospels 
freshly to the attention of Greek Christianity, 
but in the course of a generation they won a 
place in Christian woiship side by side with 
the Jewish Bible, and by A.D. 150 these "mem- 
oirs of the apostles," as they were called, were 
read at services of public worship in Rome 
along with the writings of the prophets. 

A few years earlier Marcion, an original and 
energetic layman of Sinope in Pontus, anxious 
to unite the scattered churches and shake off 
Judaism, had undertaken to replace the Jewish 
scriptures in Christian worship by a Christian 
scripture made up of the Gospel of Luke and 
the ten letters of Paul. Partly as a result of this 
Marcionite usage the letters of Paul came to 
hold a place side by side with the four Gospels 
in public worship. This stage is reflected in 
Athenagoras, the Athenian apologist (ca. A.D. 
177) , who makes use of the fourfold Gospel and 
the ten letters of Paul as Christian authorities, 
though for him they fall a little short of being 
inspired scripture like the prophets. The- 
ophilus of Antioch (A.D. 180-90) goes a little 
further in his esteem for the Gospels, though 
even he does not quite admit them to what he 
calls the Holy Scriptures. He highly valued the 
letters of Paul, but not quite so highly as he did 
the Gospels. So in his day in Antioch the Jewish 


scriptures were still pre-eminent, though the 
Gospels too were considered inspired, and to a 
less degree the letters of Paul. With Theophilus 
we are in fact on the threshold of the New 

The martyrs at Scili in North Africa, in A.D. 
180, say that they kept the letters of Paul in 
their church chest, with their church "books" 
(pipMcc, or "Bible") , by which they must have 
meant the Jewish scriptures and the four 
Gospels. We gather thus that the Gospels were 
in their Bible and that Paul's letters were not; 
but these letters were in the chest, and therefore 
were evidently read in church from time to 
time. In the Scilitan chest, in fact, we can see 
Paul's letters actually entering the Bible. They 
were not yet in the "books," but they were in 
the chest which contained the books. 

In AD. 170-80 Melito of Sardis speaks of the 
Jewish scriptures as the books of the Old 
Covenant, or Testament, being evidently on the 
verge of using the phrase "Old Testament" in 
a literary sense just as we do. From that use it 
would seem a short step to using the phrase 
"New Testament" in the same sense. How did 
that step come to be taken? 

//. The First New Testament 

The series of sectarian movements that suc- 
cessively obscured the sky of second-century 
Christianity Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosti- 
cism, Montanism led at length to a powerful 
effort on the part of general, nonschismatic 
Christianity to exert and express itself. Marcion 
had attempted to organize the churches, but in 
too drastic and partisan a spirit. A generation 
after his day the pretensions of Montanism, 
with its exaggerated claims of prophetic gifts, 
precipitated a general movement toward 
standardization and co-operation among the 
churches. Types of polity, doctrine, and scrip- 
ture which had established themselves in his- 
toric churches were now recognized as standard 
and were adopted by all. The Gospels and the 
letters of Paul were already being read in public 
worship; now they are definitely recognized as 
forming the core of a New Testament scripture 
to stand side by side with the Old. The two 
collections are supplemented and bound to- 
gether by the book of Acts and two or three or 
four letters which bore the names of apostles, 
Peter, John, Jude. The new scripture was con- 
cluded by one or two apocalypses John, Peter, 

The sources of our information at this stage 
of the development of the canon are Irenaeus, 
Tertullian, and a document containing a list 
of New Testament books which is known as the 
Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote 
his Refutation of Gnosticism probably between 


180 and 189. He accepted I Peter and I John 
(the latter including II John and probably III 
John as well, which are after all little more than 
covering letters for I John) . He accepted the 
Revelation of John and the Shepherd of 
Hermas. Tertullian of Carthage wrote his 
voluminous works between A.D. 197 and 223. 
He used I Peter, I John, and Jude as scripture, 
and accepted the Revelation of John, and at 
first the Shepherd of Hermas, though later in 
life he rejected it with the utmost scorn. The 
Muratorian Fragment on the canon, so called 
after the Italian scholar who first published it 
from a Milan manuscript in 1740, is of un- 
known authorship, though it may be from the 
hand of Victor, bishop of Rome about A.D. 200. 
At any rate it seems clearly to be a Roman 
canon of about that period and has an authori- 
tative ring. It includes two letters of John and 
one of Jude, and the Revelations of John and 
of Peter, but admits that some will not have 
the Revelation of Peter read in church. 

It is clear that Lyons, Carthage, and Rome 
were not wholly agreed toward the end of the 
second century upon the precise contents of 
their New Testaments, though the major bodies 
of scripture making it up were well recognized, 
and all contained I John and the Revelation of 
John. It is most striking that with all of them 
the letters of Paul included the letters to 
Timothy and to Titus (but not the Epistle to 
the Hebrews) . It seems clear, however, that 
Timothy and Titus were written in the second 
century to disclaim Marcion and contemporary 
schisms, just as the baptismal confession now 
adopted (the "Apostles' Creed") disavowed the 
main items in Marcion's heretical views. 

111. Early Alexandrian Canons 

The end of the second and beginning of the 
third centuries witnessed the activity of Clement 
of Alexandria, the head of the famous Christian 
school there. Egypt was the home of the early 
apocryphal gospels of the Hebrews and of the 
Egyptians, which were evidently in use in Egypt 
by A.D. 150, before the four Gospels were intro- 
duced there and gradually superseded them. 
The loss of his famous work called the Outlines, 
which contained accounts of the books of scrip- 
ture, impairs our view of Clement's position on 
scripture, but from his other works we can see 
that he accepted a larger list of New Testament 
books than was accepted at Rome. He knew the 
four Gospels and regarded them as scripture; 
but he was also acquainted with the gospels of 
the Hebrews and of the Egyptians and the 
Traditions of Matthias, though he did not 
think of them as scripture. His list of Paul's 
letters included not only the ten of the original 
list and the three Pastorals, I and II Timothy, 

and Titus, but also the Epistle to the Hebrews. 
This raised the number of Pauline letters to 

Besides the four Gospels and these fourteen 
letters of Paul, Clement also accepted an en- 
larged body of general letters, for he accepted 
not only I Peter, I and II John, and Jude, but 
also I Clement and Barnabas, as works of 
apostolic authority. We remember that I and II 
Clement stand at the end of the New Testament 
in the Alexandrian manuscript of the fifth cen- 
tury, and that Barnabas follows the Revelation 
of John in the Sinaitic manuscript of the fourth. 
These are our oldest complete manuscripts of 
the Greek New Testament. They evidently 
reflect Egyptian canons of the fourth and fifth 

Clement has a striking list of apocalypses 
in his scripture, for he accepted not only the 
Revelation of John, but also that of Peter and 
the Shepherd of Hermas. The Shepherd had 
been written in Rome and was at first highly 
prized there; but the prophetic pretensions of 
Montanism soon led to its eclipse. What 
Clement thought of the Acts is not entirely 
clear. He used it freely and spoke of it as the 
work of Luke. In fact, he used it very much as 
he did the general letters, taking its acceptance 
for granted. 

But Clement also made free use of the so- 
called Preaching of Peter, perhaps the earliest 
of Christian apologies. "Peter says in his Preach- 
ing" is the way Clement quotes it. He once 
quotes a line from the Teaching of the Apostles 
as scripture, and cites as scripture other ancient 
sayings which are otherwise unknown. So we 
are unable to define his canon sharply. He had 
no such rigid list of New Testament books as 
the churches of Rome and Africa had in his 
day. He shows the New Testament scripture 
not yet fully formed in Egypt, but in process of 

IV. The Times of Origen 

Severus' persecution in A.D. 202 forced so 
many Christian leaders out of Alexandria that 
a youth of eighteen named Origen became head 
of the Christian school there, and for more 
than fifty years he wrote and taught, first in 
Alexandria and later in Caesarea. A rich friend 
named Ambrosius in later years provided him 
with such a number of stenographers and copy- 
ists that everything he wrote was immediately 
published, and so Origen became the most 
voluminous of Christian writers. He realized 
the confusion in the churches about the precise 
contents of the New Testament, and while he 
did not seek to settle the problem, he analyzed 
it by classifying the canonical books as "ac- 
cepted" or "disputed." The accepted or ac- 



knowledged booksthat is, accepted by all 
churches were twenty-two in number: the four 
Gospels, fourteen letters of Paul, the Acts of 
the Apostles, two general letters (I Peter and 
I John) , and one apocalypse (the Revelation 
of John) . We know that Hebrews was not yet 
accepted in the West, but Origen included it in 
his list of acknowledged books nevertheless. 

Origen 's own New Testament, however, was 
larger than this; it included also the "disputed" 
books, that is, some books which he knew some 
churches did not accept. These were James, II 
and III John, Jude, II Peter, and Barnabas. 
James and II Peter appear first in the New 
Testament in this "disputed" list. And to the 
Revelation of John, Origen added the Shepherd 
of Hernias, so that the contents of his own New 
Testament, comprising both the acknowledged 
and the disputed books, were therefore exactly 
those of the Sinaitic manuscript, the oldest 
complete Greek Testament known, written 
about a century after Origen's death, which 
ends with Barnabas and the Shepherd oi 

Origen's Roman contemporary Hippolytus 
(ca. 235) , however, was more conservative. Like 
his teacher Irenaeus, Hippolytus accepted as his 
New Testament only twenty-two books. He did 
not accept Hebrews as one of the letters of Paul, 
and included only three general letters (I Peter, 
I and II John) and one apocalypse, that of 
John, in his New' Testament. Yet Hippolytus 
knew and used a number of other Christian 
books which were sometimes included by others 
Hebrews, the Shepherd, the Revelation of 
Peter, II Peter, the Acts of Paul, James, and 

The Roman church had always been a Greek 
church, and it was so still in the days of Hip- 
polytus. But he was the last Roman father to 
write in Greek. About the middle of the third 
century we find Novatian of Rome and Cyprian 
of Carthage writing to each other in Latin, and 
Latin remained thenceforth the language of the 
church at Rome. Their letters and treatises 
show that they, like Hippolytus, still held the 
primitive Roman canon of twenty-two books, 
unshaken by the example of the Alexandrian 
fathers, Clement and Origen. 

Origen was driven from Alexandria by his 
own bishop in A.D. 230, and withdrew to 
Caesarea; a year later Dionysius became head 
of the famous school at Alexandria, continuing 
in that position until A D. 247, when he became 
bishop of Alexandria. His episcopate lasted for 
seventeen years, A.D. 247-264, and he met the 
troubled situation of his times with such skill 
and vigor that lie came to be considered 
Dionysius the Great. He wrote about the Reve- 
lation of John with such penetration and force 

that he considerably modified Eastern opinion 
of it; for while he had the highest esteem for 
the book, he could not agree that it was written 
by the author of the Gospel of John. This keen 
perception of his led to the rejection of the 
Revelation by a large part of the Eastern 
church; of the manuscripts of the Greek Testa- 
ment extant today about two thirds omit it. 

V. Eusebius of Caesarea 

A few years later the Christian library estab- 
lished at Caesarea by Pamphilus was visited and 
studied by Eusebius, who afterward became 
bishop of Caesarea, attended the Council of 
Nicaea in 325, and wrote a life of Constantine. 
In his great Church History, completed in A.D. 
326, he fortunately included an account of the 
principal writers and writings of the three 
preceding centuries, particularly where they 
spoke on the books of the New Testament. He 
was well aware of the wide disagreement among 
churches and Christian leaders as to just what 
books should be included in the canon, and he 
followed Origen in seeking to organize the 
whole body of such literature in such a way as 
to do justice to all sides. But while he followed 
Origen's division of the books into "acknowl- 
edged" and "disputed," he divided the latter 
class into those that he accepted and those that 
he rejected. In order to find his own New Testa- 
ment list, therefore, we must take his "acknowl- 
edged" list and add to it the books in his "dis- 
puted" list which he did not call "rejected. 

Eusebius accepted the four Gospels and the 
Acts, fourteen letters of Paul (including He- 
brews) , I John, I Peter. Of the disputed books, 
Eusebius accepted James, Jude, II Peter, II and 
III John, and as he put it, "if it really seem 
proper," the Revelation of John. This lingering 
doubt about the Revelation echoes the suspicion 
Dionysius had raised two generations before. 
It means much, however, that Eusebius admitted 
the Revelation to his "acknowledged" list. 
These built up his own New Testament to just 
the proportions of ours today. 

The disputed books which Eusebius listed as 
"rejected" were the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd, 
the Revelation of Peter, the Letter of Barnabas, 
the Teaching of the Apostles. In referring to the 
Revelation of John, after acknowledging it "if 
it seem proper," he adds, "which some reject, 
but which some class with the accepted books." 

He has another list of books definitely heret- 
ical, such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of 
Thomas, the Traditions of Matthias, the Acts of 
Andrew, and the Acts of John. His objection to 
these books was that they were not of apostolic 
origin, such origin being decided on the basis 
of use by earlier church writers and freedom 
from schismatic bias. 



VI. Egypt in the Fourth Century 

A. The Clermont Manuscript List. In the 
Codex Claromontanus, a sixth-century Greek- 
Latin manuscript of Paul's letters, some scribe 
inserted, just before Hebrews, a Latin list of the 
books of the Old and New Testaments. One 
gathers from its contents that it must have been 
translated from a Greek list of the books 
recognized as scripture in Egypt about A.D. 300. 
It includes the four Gospels and ten letters of 
Paul (evidently skipping Philippians, I and II 
Thessalonians, and probably Hebrews by mis- 
take) . It goes on with eight general letters (I 
and II Peter, James, I, II, and III John, Jude, 
and Barnabas) . The list ends with three apoca- 
lypses and two books of acts the Revelation of 
John, the Acts of the Apostles, the Shepherd of 
Hermas, the Acts of Paul, the Revelation of 
Peter. But a later hand has put a dash before 
I Peter (probably to indicate that the general 
letters began with it) , and before Barnabas, the 
Shepherd, the Acts of Paul, and the Revelation 
of Peter (probably on the ground that these 
four were of questionable canonicity) . Here we 
have plainly reflected a time when there was a 
group of books on the very edge of the New 
Testament, about which agreement had not 
been reached. 

B. Athanasius. This great bishop of Alex- 
andria, in his annual Easter letter to the 
churches of his diocese in A.D. 367, gave a list 
of the books of scripture. His New Testament 
consisted of the four Gospels, the Acts, seven 
general letters, James, I and II Peter, I, II, and 
III John, and Jude; fourteen letters of Paul 
(including Hebrews) , and the Revelation of 
John. This is just our canon today. But 
Athanasius adds a supplementary list of books 
"to be read by those just coming forward to 
receive oral instruction in religion." Of these, 
five are from the Apocrypha, the others being 
the Teaching of the Apostles and the Shepherd 
of Hermas. Athanasius had made use of the 
Shepherd in his early writings, but by 367, 
when he was more than seventy years old, he 
had given up the idea that it could be regarded 
as scripture. Athanasius' visits to the West had 
restored his confidence in the Revelation of 
John, though even there the Gothic New Testa- 
ment of Ulfilas, a younger contemporary of 
Athanasius, did not include it. 

C. Coptic New Testaments. Of the Coptic 
versions, the oldest, the Sahidic, which began 
to take shape between A.D. 250 and 350, con- 
tained all the books of Athanasius* canon. But 
the Shepherd and I Clement also passed very 
early into Sahidic, and may have been regarded 
as scripture in Sahidic circles. The Acts of Paul 
was also translated into an Akhmimic-Sahidic 

version, which was until recently the chief 
source of its text. 

D. Greek Uncial Codices. Our three oldest 
and most complete manuscripts of the Greek 
New Testament also throw some light on the 
New Testament in Egypt in the fourth and fifth 
centuries. The oldest of them, the Vatican 
Codex, unfortunately breaks off at Heb. 9:14, 
so we cannot tell what books it may have had at 
the end. The Sinaitic Codex, written around 
A.D. 350 or soon after, ends with Barnabas and 
the Shepherd of Hermas, breaking off about one 
fourth of the way through the Shepherd. The 
Alexandrian Codex of the fifth century con- 
tains I and II Clement after the Revelation of 
John, but breaks off a little past the middle of 
II Clement. There was evidently uncertainty in 
Egypt about the precise contents of the New 
Testament even after the statement of Atha- 
nasius in A.D. 367. But later manuscripts settled 
down on the Athanasian list, except for the 
Revelation, which only about one third of the 
Greek manuscripts of the whole New Testament 

VIL The Syriac New Testament 

A. Tatian. No less ancient in its origins 
than the Latin New Testament was the Syriac 
version, which had grown up and come to be 
accepted in the native church of Syria. There 
Tatian, soon after A.D. 170, had put forth a 
Syriac harmony of the Gospels called the 
Diatessaron. The Greek church of Antioch took 
measures a generation later to introduce the 
four separate Gospels into Syriac Christianity, 
but the Diatessaron maintained its ascendancy 
for almost two centuries longer. We know this 
because it is the form of the Gospels in the 
New Testament set forth in the fourth century 
Teaching of Addai. This work regards as also 
canonical only the letters of Paul and the Acts 
of the Apostles. Syriac Christianity was evi- 
dently behind the Greek and Latin churches 
in the forming of its New Testament. 

B. Afrahat and Efrem. About the middle of 
the fourth century Afrahat accepted the Diates- 
saron, the fourteen letters of Paul, with perhaps 
also the apocryphal III Corinthians, and the 
Acts of the Apostles. In the third quarter of 
the fourth century Efrem, a great figure in 
Syriac Christianity, had the same New Testa- 
ment canon, and wrote a commentary on the 
Diatessaron and the fifteen letters of Paul, in- 
cluding III Corinthians. In fact this last book 
was carried over from Syriac into the ancient 
Armenian canon. Efrem knew other books ac- 
cepted elsewhere as canonical, as well as the 
four separate Gospels, but the seventeen books 
listed above formed his New Testament. That 
the four separate Gospels, however, were gradu- 



ally coming into favor in the Syrian churches is 
confirmed by a Syriac canon list of about A.D. 
400, which consists of the four separate Gospels, 
the Acts, and fourteen letters of Paul, and ends 
with the words, "This is all." Evidently the 
Diatessaron and III Corinthians are on the way 

C. Rabbula and the Peshitta New Testament. 
A marked revision of the text and contents of 
the Syriac New Testament took place after A,D. 
411, when Rabbula became bishop of Edessa 
(411-85). The result was the Peshitta New 
Testament, which from that time on was the 
authorized form in Syriac circles. It exists in 
many manuscripts, some from the fifth and sixth 
centuries, and includes the four Gospels, the 
Acts, three general letters (James, I Peter, I 
John) and fourteen letters of Paul. The sub- 
stitution of the new scripture for the old was 
systematically carried out. When Theodoret 
became bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in 
423, he made it his business to collect two hun- 
dred copies of the Diatessaron from his churches 
and put the four separate Gospels in their place. 
This work of substitution was so complete that 
no copy of the Syriac Diatessaron has yet been 
found. As a result, the Peshitta became almost 
at once the prevalent New Testament in Syria, 
for in the Syrian schisms of 431 and 489 it was 
accepted by both sides, and in all the subse- 
quent centuries the Syrians have carried it with 
them in their migration over the world. 

D. Later Syriac Versions, To be sure the 
Peshitta underwent a series of revisions, the 
first of them (the Philoxenian) made in A.D. 
508 by a certain Polycarp for a west Syrian 
bishop named Philoxenus, for whom the version 
was named. Being based on Greek manuscripts, 
it conformed to the Greek New Testament 
canon, and included all seven general letters 
and even the Revelation of John. Again in A.D. 
616, this version was itself revised at Alexandria 
by Thomas of Harkel, on the basis of the Greek 
text. He naturally retained the Greek canon of 
scripture which he found in Philoxenus' ver- 
sion. In the sixth century another Syriac version 
was made, probably through agencies sponsored 
by Antioch, the Greek center of Syrian Chris- 
tianity. The new version appeared in the Pales- 
tinian dialect of Syriac which prevailed about 
Antioch, and while we know it chiefly from the 
readings given in church lesson books, it is 
clear that it contained not only the four Gospels, 
the Acts, and fourteen letters of Paul, but also 
I and II Peter and I John, and hence probably 
all seven of the general letters. It did not con- 
tain the Revelation, however. The version was 
revived in the eleventh century, and from this 
period most of the surviving manuscripts of it 
come. In the twelfth century Dionysius bar 

Salibi wrote a commentary on the Revelation, 
but in spite of this tacit acceptance of that book, 
and despite the three versions just mentioned, 
the Peshitta continued to pre\ail among the 
Syrians as they scattered over the world, and 
it has never admitted the other four general 
letters nor the Revelation to its canon. 

FIJI. The Work of the Councils 

The church councils did not so much form 
the New Testament canon as recognize views 
about it that had taken shape in church usage. 
In A.D. 363 the Synod of Laodicea in Asia 
Minor forbade in Canon 59 the reading of 
uncanonical books. Canon 60, giving a list of 
canonical books, is probably a later addition, 
though from the fourth century. It contains all 
the books of our present New Testament except 
the Revelation. The Council of Hippo in Africa 
in A.D. 393 gives exactly our present list of 
twenty-seven books as scripture. The Synod of 
Carthage in A.D. 397 gives our present list of 
New Testament books, but adds that on mar- 
tyrs* days their martyrdoms may be read. The 
next Council of Carthage, A.D. 419, repeats the 
list previously given, simply shifting Hebrews 
into the Pauline list. 

The fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries 
differed among themselves about the unsettled 
status of Hebrews, the general letters, and the 
Revelation. Chrysostom (ft. 407), the greatest 
of the Greek preachers, the presbyter of Antioch 
who became patriarch of Constantinople, re- 
flects his Syrian origin in his canon, which in- 
cludes only the twenty-two books of the 
Peshitta canon. Theodoret of Cyrrhus (A.D. 
386-458) had the same Antiochian canon as 
Chrysostom. But another man of Antioch, Theo- 
dore of Mopsuestia (ft. 428) , had no general 
letters (as well as no Revelation) in his New 
Testament, standing with the Syriac canon of 
about A.D. 400 already mentioned. Gregory of 
Nazianzus (A.D. 329-89) accepted the seven 
general letters, but not the Revelation, agreeing 
with the (supposed) Canon 60 of the Synod 
of Laodicea, and the later list of sixty canonical 
books. Amphilochius of Iconium (ft. 394) ac- 
cepted four Gospels, the Acts, fourteen letters 
of Paul; his statement continues: "Of general 
letters, some say seven, others only three, one 
of James, one of Peter, and one of John. . . . 
The Revelation of John some accept but the 
majority call it uncanonical." It was in his day 
that the first Latin father we know of accepted 
Hebrews Hilary of Poitiers (ft. 367). But 
Amphilochius concurs with Chrysostom, Theo- 
dore, and Gregory in refusing to accept the 
Revelation. As we have seen, this is the position 
of the great majority of Greek manuscripts of 
the New Testament. 



In fact, the Revelation divided the church in 
the East late in the fourth century, when Basil 
(ft. 379) , Gregory of Nyssa (ft. ca. 394) , and 
Epiphanius of Constantia in Cyprus (ft. 403) 
followed Athanasius in accepting the Revela- 
tion. Of the four "doctors" of the Eastern 
church (Gregory of Nazianzus, Athanasius, 
Chrysostom, and Basil) , two accepted the Reve- 
lation and two rejected it. Even today the 
Greek church uses no readings from the Revela- 
tion in its church lessons. 

The West meanwhile questioned not the 
Revelation but Hebrews. In the middle of the 
third century, as we have seen, Western Chris- 
tianity was still refusing Hebrews and all but 
three general letters I Peter, I and II John. 
The Eastern churches were going on, especially 
in Alexandria, to a larger New Testament; and 
this fuller canon gradually penetrated the West 
as well. A North African list of about A.D. 359, 
a hundred years after Cyprian, contained all of 
our New Testament except Hebrews, James, 
and Jude. Hilary of Poitiers (ft. 367), Am- 
brosiaster (the times of Damasus, 366-84) , 
Lucifer of Cagliari (ft. 371), and Priscillian of 
Saragossa (ft. 385) accepted Hebrews as part of 
the New Testament. Pelagius of Britain (ca. 
410) did not include it among Paul's letters, 
but the authority of Ambrose, Rufinus, Jerome, 
and Augustine assured its acceptance in the 
West. For Jerome put it into his Vulgate Latin 
version, begun in A.D. 382, though he admitted 
that "the custom of the Latins" did not accept 
it. Augustine was doubtful about its being the 
work of Paul, but admitted that he was follow- 
ing the Eastern churches in accepting it. It was 
his influence that led the councils of Hippo 
(393) and Carthage (397, 419) to put it into 
their New Testaments. 

IX. Further Developments 

The full list of seven general letters was even 
more reluctantly accepted in the West. Hilary, 
Lucifer, and Ambrose accepted three or four of 
these letters, while Rufinus, Augustine, and 
Jerome acknowledged all seven. The work of 
Jerome in producing the authoritative Vulgate 
version at the instance of Pope Damasus I had 
of course the effect of fixing the New Testa- 
ment canon of twenty-seven books for Latin 

The papal decretals of Damasus, Gelasius, 
and Hormisdas, all now known to be from the 
sixth century, reflect this Vulgate canon, though 
in A.D. 560, Cassiodorus found and copied from 
some old book a New Testament list of twenty- 
two books just like that of the Peshitta a fact 
to be accounted for perhaps by the origin of his 
family in Syria. 

Improvements in book forms in the Latin 

world helped to establish this canon, for while 
the Greeks very seldom produced a one-volume 
New Testament, Latin scribes had no difficulty 
in doing so, and such manuscript copies of the 
New Testament in Latin became very numer- 
ous. In Greek, however, the Gospels were likely 
to form one volume, the letters of Paul another, 
the Acts and general letters a third, and the 
Revelation a fourth. Indeed, Leontius of By- 
zantium, lecturing in Jerusalem in A.D. 530, says 
the New Testament consists of six volumes 
Matthew-Mark, Luke-John, Acts, the seven gen- 
eral letters, the letters of Paul, and the Re vela 
tion. In both Greek and Latin churches the 
Athanasian canon of twenty-seven books had 

While the Syrian church steadfastly main- 
tained its short canon of twenty-two books, the 
influence of Alexandria had made itself felt in 
the Ethiopic canon of thirty-five books, our 
twenty-seven being supplemented by the so- 
called "Clement" and the Synodus "Clement" 
including among other things an expanded 
form of the Revelation of Peter, which, as we 
have seen, had found a place in the Muratorian 
canon, in that of Clement, in the Clermont list 
and in other ancient canons. A somewhat sim- 
ilar appendix to the New Testament is men- 
tioned in a Greek list (ca. A.D. 400) of New 
Testament books which contained eight books 
of the Apostolical Constitutions condensations 
of church law which it was convenient to have 
copied with the New Testament scriptures. But 
after the sixth century nothing more is heard of 
this appendix in Greek circles. 

The Middle Ages made no changes in these 
three standard canons, Greek-Latin, Syriac, and 
Ethiopic, though some incidents are of interest. 
In the sixth century Andreas of Caesarea in 
Cappadocia wrote a commentary on the Revela- 
tion of John, which he evidently considered a 
New Testament book. This was the first com- 
mentary on Revelation written in the East. In 
the same century Cosmas, called Indicopleustes 
because of his voyages to the shores of India, 
reported that in Syria only three general letters 
were accepted, and he himself regarded all 
seven with suspicion. A ninth-century list bear- 
ing the name of Nicephorus (ft. 828) , which 
gives the number of lines (stick oi) in each 
book, has the Revelation in its "disputed" list. 
On the other hand, Photius, patriarch of Con- 
stantinople in the ninth century, in the collec- 
tion of 280 book reviews known as his Bibli- 
otheca, accepts the Revelation as part of the 
New Testament. 

Another ninth-century figure, Arethas of 
Caesarea, who played his part like Photius in 
the Greek revival of the period, expanded 
Andreas' commentary on the Revelation. His 



commentary accompanies the Revelation in 
many manuscripts, for example in the Eliza- 
beth Day McCormick manuscript. 

In the West Jerome's Vulgate version, sup- 
ported as it was by Augustine, came slowly into 
use, not establishing its supremacy over Old 
Latin texts until the ninth century. The oddest 
variation the Western canons exhibit is the 
inclusion in about a hundred manuscripts of 
the spurious letter to the Laodiceans, a mean- 
ingless string of Pauline phrases, probably com- 
posed in Greek, but extant only in translation. 
It is found in Old Latin texts as well as Vulgate 
copies from the sixth century down. Jerome 
said that all rejected it; but the Spanish Pris- 
tillian (ft. 385), his contemporary Philaster 
of Brescia, and Pope Gregory the Great (ca. 
900) thought it a genuine work of Paul, though 
not scripture. The British Alfric, abbot of Cerne 
(989) , regarded it as a fifteenth letter of Paul. 
John of Salisbury (1165) too held it to be 
Paul's. It was translated into Old English and 
German, and followed Galatians in all the High 
German Bibles from 1466 until Luther, while 
even later the French scholar Faber Stapulensis 
(ft. 1536) listed it among the letters of Paul. 

Other eddies in the stream of scripture trans- 
mission may be mentioned. The Visigoths 
brought Ulfilas' version of the New Testament 
to Spain, where its omission of the Revelation 
was denounced in the fourth Council of Toledo 
in A.D. 633. Some Latin New Testaments on 
the other hand included the Shepherd of 
Hennas in Latin. But in 1441 Pope Eugene IV 
reaffirmed the canon of Augustine and Jerome, 
including the Revelation and omitting the 

In the Middle Ages the Latin Bible passed 
still more definitely into the hands of the clergy. 
Translations into the vulgar tongues were gen- 
erally forbidden in the thirteenth, fourteenth, 
and fifteenth centuries, the church presuming 
to be the sole interpreter of scripture. Neverthe- 
less, a German Bible translated from the Latin 
in the fourteenth century began to appear in 
print in 1466, and Wycliffe's English version 
was completed in 1382. Problems of authenticity 
and canonicity were neglected until at length 
in 1546 the Council of Trent definitely shut 
the door on any further inquiry. It was Erasmus 
who in the preface to his Greek Testament in 
1516 broke sharply with the church position 
and called for translations of the Bible into all 
the vernaculars, thus inviting the work of 
Luther (1522) and Tyndale (1525) . 

X. New Testament Apocrypha 

The term Apocrypha "secret" or "hidden" 
strictly applies only to the books of the Greek 
Old Testament which Jerome did not find in 


the Hebrew Old Testament, and which Luther 
actually separated and printed in a group by 
themselves in his translation of 1534, being fol- 
lowed in this by all the Protestant English 
Bibles from Coverdale to the King James Ver- 
sion. There is no such appendix to the New 
Testament, but the term may be applied to a 
number of books, one or more of which have 
been included at one time or another in New 
Testament manuscripts or in lists of New 
Testament books. 

The Shepherd of Hernias and the Revelation 
of Peter found place in some lists or manu- 
scripts. The Shepherd of Hermas in a Latin 
version influenced even Dante around 1300. 
From the time of its completion at Rome about 
A.D. 100, the Shepherd was very popular. It was 
accepted then as scripture. In Alexandria too 
Clement and Origen held it to be scripture, as 
did the maker of the original of the Clermont 
list in Egypt about A.D. 300. Eusebius classed it 
among the disputed books which were rejected. 
Athanasius recommended it for use by new 
converts, but did not admit it to the New 
Testament. Yet it found a place at the end of 
the New Testament in the Sinaitic manuscript 
about A.D. 350. In the West Irenaeus held it to 
be scripture, as did Tertullian at first, though 
he later repudiated it. The Muratorian writer 
definitely excluded it, as recently written and 
not apostolic. But it was translated early into 
Latin, and in the Middle Ages was often copied 
as part of the Latin Bible. 

The Revelation of Peter was accepted as 
scripture by the Muratorian writer and by 
Clement of Alexandria, but not by Hippolytus 
at Rome. Eusebius placed it among the disputed 
and rejected books. Sozomen (ca. 450) says it 
was read annually on Good Friday in the 
churches of Palestine in his day. It stood in the 
Clermont list, but with a dash, perhaps to 
cancel it. Another work bearing the name of 
Peter, the Preaching of Peter, was accepted by 
Clement of Alexandria and Heracleon, but 
not by Origen or Eusebius. 

The Teaching of the Apostles was also treated 
as scripture by Clement, but not by Origen or 
Eusebius. Athanasius said it might be read, like 
the Shepherd, by new converts. The Letter of 
Barnabas was accepted by Clement and Origen 
as scripture and stands after the Revelation of 
John in the Sinaitic manuscript. The Clermont 
list has it as the end of the general letters. The 
"Stichometry of Nicephorus" (850) put it 
among the disputed books. Jerome thought it 
was written by Barnabas but was not scripture. 

The letter of Clement of Rome to the Corin- 
thians was accepted as scripture by Clement of 
Alexandria, and with the so-called II Clement 
found a place at the end of the Alexandrian 


manuscript of the New Testament and in a 
twelfth-century Syriac manuscript of the New 
Testament. The Acts of Paul found a place in 
the Clermont list, though marked off with a 
dash. Laodiceans appeared in some Latin New 
Testaments, and III Corinthians was in Efrem's 
Syriac New Testament in the fourth century. 
But no ancient list included all these different 

XI. Selected Bibliography 

GOODSPEED, EDGAR J. The Formation of the New 
Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

GREGORY, C. R. The Canon and Text of the New 
Testament. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1907. 

HARNACK, ADOLF VON. The Origin of the New Testa- 

ment, tr. J. R. Wilkinson. New York- The Mac- 

millan Co., 1925. 
JACQUIER, EUGENE. Le Nouveau Testament dans 

r&glise chretienne. Paris: Victor Lecoffre, 1911. 

Vol. I, "Preparation, formation, et definition du 

canon du Nouveau Testament." 
LEIPOLDT, JOHANNES. Geschichtc des neutestament- 

Itchen Kanons. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1907-8. 
MOORE, E. C. The New Testament in the Christian 

Church. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1904. 
SOUTER, ALEXANDER. The Text and Canon of the 

New Testament. New York: Charles Scribner's 

Sons, 1913. 
WESTCOTT, B. F. A General Survey of the History 

of the Canon of the New Testament. London: 

Macmillan & Co., 1866. 
ZAHN, THEODOR. Forschungen zur Geschichte des 

neutestamentlichen Kanons. Erlangen: A. Dei- 
chert, 1881-1900. 




I. The Nature and Origin of Variant Readings 

A. Amount of Disagreement in Variant Read- 

B. Variations Created by Scribes 
1. Harmonization 

2 Removal of Heresy 

3. Clarification 

4. Unintentional Variation 

5. Change of the Rare to the Familiar 

C. Variations Created by Editors 

D. Variations Created by Translators 

E. Standardization of the Text 

II. Choosing Between Variant Readings 

A. Methods Not Now Generally Approved 

When the modern minister wishes to use a 
New Testament, he turns to a printed book. 
This is true whether he reads the New Testa- 
ment in English, French, Russian, or Greek. 
He knows if he stops to think about it at all 
that the early Christians had no printed books 
but used handwritten copies of the New Testa- 
ment. He may not know that the early Chris- 
tian use of handwritten books is reflected even 
today in variations in the content of the various 
printings of the New Testament. 

L The Nature and Origin of Variant Readings 

The easiest way to get rid of variations and 
to attain accuracy would be to print from the 
original copy of each book of the New Testa- 
ment, and to get universal agreement to use 
that printing. But the original documents are 
all gone sunk without a trace in the vast and 
misty sea of the past. From time to time the 
claim is made that an "original" has been 
found. St. Mark's Church in Venice claimed to 
possess the original of the Gospel of Mark. In- 
vestigation revealed that what it had was a 
copy of Jerome's fourth-century revision of a 
Latin translation of the Gospel of Mark. 

The falsity of these claims to possess an 
"original" can easily be demonstrated by com- 
petent scholars. Edgar J. Goodspeed of the 
University of Chicago was once offered the 
"original" of Pilate's report on the Crucifixion 


1. By Custom 

2. By Majority Vote 

3. By Date 

4. By Quality 

5. By Genealogy 

6. By Agreement with Church Fathers 

7. By Geographical Distribution 
B. The Best Method a Triple One 

1. External Study 

2. Internal Evidence 

3. Conjectural Emendation 

4. Two Illustrations 

III. Summary 

IV. Selected Bibliography 

to the Emperor Tiberius, It had been "dis- 
covered" in an Italian city, and came into the 
hands of an Italian living in Schenectady, New 
York. Inspection showed that the parchment on 
which it was written had served as the cover of 
a modern book, that the scribe used all the 
modern marks of punctuation, that the ink was 
still on the surface of the parchment, that the 
alphabet employed was taken from modern 
Greek printing and was one which had never 
been employed in Greek handwriting, least of 
all in the first century A.D. 

The originals of each book of the New Testa- 
ment have vanished. There is nothing surpris- 
ing in this. Many of these books were in all 
probability written on papyrus, which is no 
more durable than modern paper. Moreover, 
they were written to be read at group meetings, 
not to be deposited in archives. They were read 
and reread until they were worn out. Then 
they were discarded. The originals had been 
discarded before they became canonical. 

But before the originals were discarded, they 
were copied. Before the originals were worn 
out, their copies had been copied, some of them 
many times. Not all Christians could read, but 
the size of the reading public of the Gospels, 
for example, was not limited to the number of 
literate Christians. In that ancient world read- 
ing meant reading aloud, and scores of illiterate 
Christians could hear the gospel read. The 


"lessons" from the Old and New Testament in 
our church service today go back to this ancient 
custom. By the second half of the second cen- 
tury this custom was well established. 

Almost all the early Christians were traveling 
salesmen for their religion, and this increased 
the demand for copies of the New Testament 
books. Imagine a citizen of Carthage converted 
to Christianity while on a trip to the city of 
Rome. As he starts back to Carthage, the mem- 
bers of the church his new-found brothers 
equip him with helps for the maintenance and 
spread of his faith. These helps may have in- 
cluded some books of the "Bible" (which for 
them was the Old Testament in Greek) and a 
copy of the Christian Gospel written in Rome 
by one of their own number, John, who was also 
called Mark. This last would be copied by 
amateur scribes whose zeal surpassed their abil- 
ity. To them, as to modern ministers, it was the 
gospel that mattered, not the exact wording. 
Thus the man from Carthage went back home 
with a copy of Mark which differed somewhat 
from its source. 

The Christian convert from Carthage is a 
product of imagination, but the disagreement 
of one handwritten copy of the New Testament 
from another handwritten copy is not imaginary. 
No two of these manuscripts agree completely. 
In some cases the disagreement is extensive. 
These variations, or "variant readings," create 
difficulties for the modern publisher who would 
like to print an edition of the New Testament. 
Before he begins printing, he must decide 
which of the handwritten copies he will follow 
as regards those points where they disagree with 
each other. The editor might escape this ardu- 
ous task if these disagreements were insignifi- 
cant in number or in nature. It does not take 
long to show that they are not. 

A. Amount of Disagreement in Variant Read' 
ings. To start at the bottom of the list with 
the least significant variants we note those 
which are unique. Each manuscript has some 
readings of its own ("singular readings") . If we 
were to compare one human being with all the 
rest of the human race, we would find some 
details in which he differed from all other 
human beings. The best known of these singu- 
lar items is his fingerprints. Thus one manu- 
script, when compared with all other manu- 
scripts in existence, has some singular readings, 
as distinctive as fingerprints. One of the manu- 
scripts at the University of Chicago contains 
only the Gospel of Mark. But in this Gospel it 
lias 181 variant readings which do not occur in 
any other manuscript. 1 

Or take another approach to the question of 

* University of Chicago MS 972, Gregory's 2427. 

the amount of difference between these New 
Testaments. Any person compared with any 
other person will differ from that person in 
various ways. Mr. A will be tall, skinny, dark, 
and handsome. Mr. B will be short, fat, blond, 
and ugly. The range of difference when two 
people are compared will be greater than that 
found when one person is compared with the 
human race. Generally speaking, two members 
of the same family differ less than two members 
of the same tribe, and these differ less than in- 
habitants of different continents. As with peo- 
ple, so with manuscripts. Every manuscript in 
existence differs from any other specific manu- 
script in a large number of passages. The range 
of this variation is quite wide. 

Two specific manuscripts that are members 
of a closely related family differ from each other 
in matters other than spelling 25 times in Mark, 
the shortest of the Gospels. 2 Two other manu- 
scripts that belong to the same type of text but 
not to a family are the manuscripts 2427 and 
Vaticanus (B) , members of the Beta text type. 
In the Gospel of Mark these two have no closer 
kin, yet they differ in that one Gospel 873 times. 
Again, two manuscripts that belong to different 
text types may differ from each other as much 
as 14,040 times in the four Gospels. 3 Although 
reduction in these totals might be required to 
compensate for errors in computation, the totals 
are still impressive. The amount of variation is 
large enough to fatigue the memory of the 
student, and to appall the prospective editor. 

There is a third method of estimating the 
amount of differences between copies of the 
New Testament. Suppose one wanted a record 
of all human variations from some one stand- 
ard without regard to the number of people 
exhibiting each variation. In manuscript study 
this means taking some one form of the New 
Testament as the base or "text" and recording 
all known variations from it in what is called a 
"critical apparatus." This is not done very 
often. Konstantin von Tischendorf did it in 
1869. Again, in 1913 Hermann von Soden 
printed the variations from his Greek New 
Testament. The listing required 893 pages. 
Since the number of variations listed per page 
ranges from 39 to 61, and averages more than 
50, one estimates that von Soden knew about 
45,000 different readings in the New Testament 
which he regarded as worth printing. 

The extant manuscripts, most of them as yet 
unstudied in detail, must contain several times 
that number. The vast majority of these will be 

1219 and H, members of "Family Pi." 

Bezae (D) and 2427 differ in Mark 11 a total of 
117 times. The figure given in the text is an estimate 
based on the assumption that the same rate of variation 
would hold throughout the Gospels. 



rejected by any editor. This may console the 
pious, but it does not help the editor who has 
to winnow the chaff from such a vast heap 
before he begins printing his New Testament. 

B* Variations Created by Scribes. Before the 
publisher can make an intelligent decision be- 
tween these numerous variants, he has to study 
them carefully and extensively. To help him 
appraise these variants scholars group them in 
various ways. Some of these classifications are 
technical, complicated, and obscure to the be- 
ginner. To make as clear as possible the nature 
of these variants, we may classify them here on 
the basis of the cause of the particular variation. 

1. Harmonization. The desire for consistency 
created many of these variant readings. The 
Christian scribe expected one Gospel to agree 
with another; he anticipated that a New Testa- 
ment book would agree with an Old Testament 
book. Where he found disagreement or incon- 
sistency in the manuscript he was copying, he 
automatically assumed that it was in error and 
"corrected'* the error by bringing the divergent 
passages into harmony. This harmonization is 
found in varying degree in almost all manu- 
scripts, and in almost all the books of the New 
Testament. It is commonest in the first three 
Gospels because they have the largest amount 
of parallel material. 

The objective situation in this area can be 
described as follows: 92 per cent of the Gospel 
of Mark appears in the Gospel of Matthew, and 
much more than half of it appears also in the 
Gospel of Luke. In some copies of the Gospels 
there are striking variations from Gospel to 
Gospel in these parallel passages. In other 
copies of the Gospels all three of the Gospels 
agree. Since we know from a study of the church 
fathers that Matthew was much more popular 
than Mark, we would expect to find Matthew's 
form of a story affecting Mark's form of the 
same story. Actually examples of this are nu- 

In the account of the healing of the man with 
the withered hand, Matthew's Gospel (12:13) 
reads, "Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out 
your hand.' And the man stretched it out, and 
it was restored, whole like the other." None of 
the copies of Matthew conclude otherwise than 
"restored, whole like the other." In Mark's 
Gospel (3:5) , most copies, including all the 
earliest ones, read, "And said to the man, 
'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, 
and his hand was restored." Other copies of 
Mark, including eleven dating from the seventh 
to the ninth centuries, add "whole like the 
other." Thus they agree with Matthew. In 
Luke's Gospel (6:10) some copies read, "And 
he did so and his hand was restored." Many 
copies add the word "whole"; still more copies 

add the words "like the other." Since there is no 
variation in Matthew, we assume that we have 
Matthew's original wording, "restored, whole 
like the other." In Mark and Luke we assume 
that the text originally lacked these words and 
that they were added to harmonize these Gos- 
pels with Matthew. If the long form of Mark 
and Luke is assumed to be original, no good 
reason for the widespread omission can be 
found. If it is said that omission by error needs 
no explanation, the answer is that the error 
did not occur in any of the copies of Matthew, 
and that this same difference between copies of 
Matthew and the copies of Mark and Luke 
occurs in scores of other passages. 

In the prediction of the last days, Mark's Gos- 
pel (13:14) reads, "But when you see the deso- 
lating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be 
(let the reader understand) , then let those who 
are in Judea flee to the mountains." The verse 
appears in this form in the two fourth-century 
copies (B and tf) that Westcott and Hort 
favored, in the fifth-century Washington manu- 
script of the Gospels (W) , in the contemporary 
but frequently divergent Codex Bezae (D) , in 
the oldest copy in Syriac, in some Old Latin 
copies, in most copies of Jerome's Latin Vul- 
gate, in the two major Egyptian versions, in the 
Armenian and the Old Georgian, in an ex- 
plicit statement by Augustine, and in a few 
other copies. But the overwhelming majority of 
the copies of Mark add the words "spoken of 
by the prophet Daniel" after "sacrilege." In 
Matt. 24:15-16 all copies agree in reading 
"sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel." In 
passages where Matthew has no parallel in 
Mark, he makes frequent reference to Old 
Testament prophecy. This supports the judg- 
ment of manuscript students that the appear- 
ance of Daniel in some copies of Mark 13:14 is 
due to harmonization with the parallel in Mat- 
thew. The student of the English Bible can ob- 
serve the difference by comparing the King 
James Version in these passages with the Re- 
vised Standard Version or Goodspeed's Ameri- 
can translation. 

In these examples of harmonization we see 
the intentional creation of variants. This is not 
to say that the scribe intended to create a new 
reading; what he intended was the correction 
of what he mistakenly identified as an erroneous 
reading. Reverence for scripture was a help 
rather than a hindrance to such action. The 
"errors" which harmonization removed were in- 
consistencies or disagreements between the parts 
of scripture. More serious alleged errors were 
weeded out just as ruthlessly by many scribes. 

2. Removal of Heresy. A Christian scribe 
copying the Gospel of Matthew was surprised to 
find Jesus quoted as saying that the exact date 



of the end of the world was a secret from him, 
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not 
even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the 
Father only" (Matt. 24:36) . The scribe knew 
that "the Son" referred to Jesus; he knew that 
Jesus was omniscient; therefore he knew that 
someone had made a mistake in writing this 
sentence. So he corrected it by omitting the 
words "nor the Son." In making this change 
he felt sure that he was restoring the original 
reading. Scholars today would disagree with 
him. They regard the absence of the words 
"nor the Son 1 ' as a variation albeit an early 
one from the original text of Matthew. 

In Luke's account of the arrest a statement 
is made which wounded the sensibilities of 
some devout Christians. "Also other criminals, 
two, were led away to be put to death with 
him" (Luke 23:32). This statement is made in 
a very different and completely innocuous form 
in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The 
Lukan wording with its implication that Jesus 
was a criminal was regarded as erroneous by 
some scribes. They avoided this implication 
by changing the word order of the Greek so that 
it read, "Two others also, who were criminals, 
were led away to be put to death with him." 
Still other Christian copyists made the "correc- 
tion" sure by omitting the word "criminals" al- 
together, so that the verse reads, "Also two 
others were led away to be put to death with 

5. Clarification. Reverence for the Gospels 
supported the creation of another class of 
variations: the explanatory notes. These may 
have started in the margins of the book, or in 
parenthetical expressions written between the 
lines. From either of these positions they could 
easily move into the text itself. One scribe who 
mistook the explanatory note for a "correction" 
of the text would be enough to introduce the 
new reading. In fact, explanation and correc- 
tion often appear in the same position on the 
page; thus the scribe's mistake was an easy one 
to make. 

In Mark 4:11-12 the American Standard Ver- 
sion reads: "Unto you is given the mystery of 
the kingdom of God: but unto them that are 
without, all things are done in parables: that 
seeing they may see, and not perceive; and 
hearing they may hear, and not understand; 
lest haply they should turn again, and it should 
be forgiven them." The vague reference of the 
impersonal pronoun "it" in "it should be for- 
given them" is no less vague in the Greek, which 
has the verb without a subject. A fair number 
of Greek copies of Mark have the passage in 
this obscure form, but some scribes added the 
words "their sins" to clear up the passage. This 

clearer form occurs in the majority of the copies, 
and may be seen in the King James Version: 
"and their sins should be forgiven them." 

In John 5 the story is told of a healing at the 
pool called Bethesda. In the form of the story 
which appears in a score of early witnesses (in- 
cluding the earliest versions and some very 
early patristic evidence) the sick man's answer 
to Jesus refers to things which were undbubt- 
edly clear to both him and Jesus but could not 
possibly be clear to later generations of readers: 
"The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no 
man to put me into the pool when the water is 
troubled, and while I am going another steps 
down before me' " (John 5:7) . Up to this point 
nothing has been said as to the nature of the 
troubling of the water or the importance of 
being first. The obscurity is cleared up in the 
vast mass of later copies by the addition of the 
following explanatory note early in the story 
(KJV; RSV mg.) : ". . . waiting for the moving 
of the water; for an angel of the Lord went 
down at certain seasons into the pool, and 
troubled the water: whoever stepped in first 
after the troubling of the water was healed of 
whatever disease he had." 

4. Unintentional Variation. The three 
causes of variation discussed so far (harmoniza- 
tion, removal of heresy, and clarification) are 
all the result of conscious changes; these are 
what are called intentional variations. But 
scribes who copied the New Testament were as 
liable to human weakness as scribes who copied 
Homer. Like Homer himself, they occasionally 
nodded. One very common error of the eye led 
to the omission of a passage by mistake. If two 
successive lines began with the same word, the 
scribe's eye might slip from one to the other 
with the consequent omission of a line of text. 
This occurred in very early manuscripts, and in 
late medieval copies. In most copies, Mark 
10:46 reads, "And they came to Jericho; and 
. ..." In a fourth-century New Testament, the 
famous Codex Vaticanus (B) , "And they came 
to Jericho" would fill one line. The scribe's eye 
jumped to the "and" which began the next line; 
so "and they came to Jericho" is omitted by 
this manuscript. This copy also contains ex- 
amples of the omission of a line due to the 
identity of its ending with that of an adjacent 
line (homoeoteleuton) . 

Sometimes the scribe skipped over a word 
but caught his error before he reached the end 
of the sentence. In Greek, word order is very 
free. Thus the scribe could insert the omitted 
word as soon as he discovered it was missing. In 
this way he created a variation in word order. 
These variations are often without significance 
for meaning, but occasionally affect the sense 



vitally. Even when they do not drastically affect 
the sense, they cause difficulties for the printer 
who wants to publish an exact copy of the New 

The fallibility of the scribe's eyesight led him 
to duplicate passages as well as to omit them. 
These variations are usually easily identifiable 
as errors. The scribe who wrote the Four Gos- 
pels of Karahissar, a thirteenth century copy of 
the Gospels in Greek, duplicated one line of 
the genealogy in Matt. 1:15-16. In his copy we 
read, "And Matthan begat Jacob; and Jacob 
begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Joseph. . . ." The 
frequent repetition of the verb "begat" misled 
him into the repetition of "begat Jacob; and 

In a few passages the variation is of such a 
nature that it can be explained either as omis- 
sion by error, or as addition by error. In Matt. 
27:17, the Revised Standard Version reads: 
"Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to 
release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called 
Christ?'" In a few copies of this passage we 
find, "Whom do you want me to release for 
you? Jesus Barabbas? or Jesus who is called 
Christ?" Let us assume that the original did not 
read the word "Jesus" before "Barabbas." It 
could have been created there by the erroneous 
duplication of the last syllable of the Greek 
word "you." This word in this passage would be 
YMIN, and IN is an abbreviation frequently 
employed for "Jesus." If a scribe by error wrote 
YMIN IN, the result would be ". . . for you? 
Jesus Barabbas?" But let us take the other posi- 
tion and assume that the original read the word 
"Jesus" before "Barabbas." Then the scribe 
could easily by error have omitted the second 
IN and thus created the reading ". . . for you? 
Barabbas? . . ." In such circumstances either 
additional data or other criteria for judgment 
are needed before the printer can decide which 
form to follow. 

Variations between copies of the New Testa- 
ment were created also by scribes who were 
poor spellers. In this regard ancient stenogra- 
phers resemble their modern counterparts at 
their worst. Quite a few vowels and diphthongs 
were pronounced alike in Greek, and not until 
the printing press was invented did uniform 
spelling become possible. In the Four Gospels 
of Karahissar there are 271 of these misspellings. 

The presence of these "ear-spellings" in a 
copy has often been claimed as evidence that it 
was written from dictation. But one's confi- 
dence in this claim may well be shaken by the 
discovery that when composing on the type- 
writer, one can easily think "their" and write 
"there," etc., or by the observation of similar 
errors made by typists who are following clear 

copy. Slight variations of this and similar types 
account for almost fifty per cent of the variant 
readings found in the ordinary handwritten 
copy of the Greek New Testament. 

5. Change of the Rare to the Familiar. 
Modern psychologists have taught us that we 
often see what we expect to see, the familiar 
object, even when it is not there. The scribes 
who copied the New Testament were subject to 
this failing also, and because of it, created varia- 
tions in some copies of the New Testament. 
This is strikingly illustrated in Mark 6:20, in 
the story of John the Baptist's imprisonment. 
One of the commonest words in Greek, as in 
English, is the verb "do." Relatively rare in 
Greek, as in English, is the verb "to be per- 
plexed." It occurs only six times in the New 
Testament. In the Greek these two verbs look 
much alike in the third person singular of the 
imperfect tense of the indicative mood. "He 
did" is iTfofei; "he was perplexed" is fj-mSpei. On 
the one hand, the famous manuscripts Vati- 
canus, Sinaiticus, Koridethi, and a few others 
with the Egyptian version read, "When he 
[Herod] heard him [John], he was much per- 
plexed; and yet he heard him gladly." This is 
to be seen in the Revised Standard Version, 
also in Goodspeed's translation. On the other 
hand, the overwhelming majority of copies read 
with the King James Version, "And when he 
[Herod] heard him [John], he did many things, 
and heard him gladly." 

There can be little doubt that the scribes mis- 
read the rare word "perplexed" as the familiar 
word "did." This can be seen actually happen- 
ing in a copy of the Gospel of Mark at the 
University of Chicago. This manuscript, called 
"The Archaic Mark," originally read "per- 
plexed," but has been "corrected" to read "did." 

C. Variations Created by Editors. Up to this 
point we have been considering variations 
caused by scribes. Two other classes of people 
worked their will upon the New Testament: 
editors and translators. At times the results of 
their work included the creation of new vari- 
ants. Scribes were discussed first because they 
are more numerous, but not because the time 
sequence is scribes, editors, translators. Only 
the first few scribes preceded all editors and 
translators; after that they all overlap in time. 
Thus, for example, in the fifty years from A.D. 
150 to 200, the New Testament was being 
translated, edited, and copied. 

Much of what has been said about scribes is 
true also of editors. An editor is just a super- 
scribe who hires other scribes to multiply 
copies of the New Testament under his direc- 
tion. An editor would differ from a scribe in 
the rigor with which he applied his principles 



throughout the text of the New Testament. If 
he preferred participle and verb to verb and 
verb, the editor would choose the former rather 
consistently. If he felt that a short form was 
primitive, he would take it whenever he could. 
An editor who favored smoothness would add 
expletives throughout the work. As will be seen 
later, we have in existence groups of manu- 
scripts which exhibit some of these character- 
istics so consistently that we are constrained to 
attribute them to the work of editors. 

An editor would differ also from a scribe in 
the degree of conscious purpose with which he 
changed particular copies or particular passages. 
In that purpose most editors would certainly 
include a desire for unity. This desire might 
express itself as a concern for the widest pos- 
sible circulation of the new edition, or for the 
destruction of rival editions. Yet this very 
desire might lead to the use of several pre- 
viously distinct strains in the production of the 
new edition. A New Testament of one type 
might be corrected by one of a very different 
sort. This led to the creation of new readings 
when the editor blended the readings of the 
two manuscripts. 

Westcott and Hort called such a hybrid a 
"conflate reading," aind identified eight of 
them as the work of die editors who produced 
a fourth-century edition which they called 
"Syrian." In Mark 9:49 these editors created 
the reading, "For every one shall be salted with 
fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." 
Earlier editions of the passage are known. One 
reads, "For every one will be salted with fire"; 
another, "For every sacrifice shall be salted with 
salt." We have seen that editors resembled 
scribes, and we find individual scribes occasion- 
ally blending readings in this same fashion. In 
Acts 6:8 many copies jread "full of grace"; many 
others "full of faith." But one copy reads, 
"full of grace and faith." 

D. Variations Created by Translators. By 
the time the apostle Paul came to his martyr- 
dom, the overwhelming majority of the Chris- 
tians spoke Greek, either as a native tongue or 
as a second language. But as Christian mission- 
aries pushed beyond the cities into small provin- 
cial villages, the demand for a New Testament 
in the native tongue of these new converts 
increased. By A.D. 200, the New Testament was 
available in Latin, in Egyptian, and In Syriac. 
The gradual decline in knowledge of Greek 
among Christians contributed to the develop- 
ment of particular forms of the New Testament 
in several languages. 

Translating the New Testament, even when 
it is done with care, creates new variations in 
its content. Many of the early translations were 

not made with much care. Augustine says of 
the making of the early Latin translations: 

For the translations of the Scriptures from He- 
brew into Greek can be counted, but the Latin 
translators are out of all number. For in the early 
days of the faith every man who happened to get 
his hands upon a Greek manuscript, and who 
thought he had any knowledge, were it ever so 
little, of the two languages, ventured upon the 
work of translation/ 

It is interesting to note that one of these Latin 
versions is probably the longest form of the 
Gospels in existence while an equally ancient 
Syriac translation is the shortest form in ex- 

Sometimes the translator creates a reading 
unwittingly. In the account of the Lord's Sup- 
per in the King James and the American Stand- 
ard Version (Matt. 26:27) the Lord says to his 
disciples as he hands them the cup, "Drink ye 
all of it." Sermons on this text have sometimes 
expounded it as an exhortation to complete 
devotion, devotion unto death, as though the 
meaning were, "drink the cup to the dregs." 
To avoid such a misunderstanding, Weymouth 
reads "Drink, all of you"; the Twentieth Cen- 
tury New Testament translates "Drink from it, 
all of you"; Goodspeed reads "You must all 
drink from it"; and the Revised Standard Ver- 
sion has "Drink of it, all of you." 

When Tyndale translated a Greek verb mean- 
ing "wrapped up" in Luke 2:7 as "wrapped 
hym in swadlynge cloothes," he created a new 
reading for the New Testament. For it survived 
through the King James Version to the English 
Revised Version and the American Standard 
Version. "Clothes" is a survival of the old 
spelling of "cloths"; thus the "swaddling-cloths" 
were not garments, and the passage is much 
more accurately translated in the modern 
speech versions as "wrapped him up." The 
Revised Standard Version reads "swaddling 

Other variants created by translators are less 
innocent. The Revised Standard Version often 
smooths out the language of the original be- 
yond recognition; especially is this true in the 
Gospels of Mark and Luke. The "and . . . and 
. . . and" of Mark's Gospel is polished up to 
suit sensitive English ears and leaves no trace 
of the style of the original for the student of 
Mark. Likewise, the "and it came to pass" of 
the older version which actually exists in the 
New Testament itself was dropped. 

E. Standardization of the Text. Editors and 
translators create "standard" editions which 
spread a particular pattern of variations widely 
but check the development of new variations. 

*On Christian Doctrine II. 11. 



A few editors tried to standardize the New 
Testament as early as the second century. A 
Greek-Latin manuscript from the fifth century, 
which is supported by some copies of second- 
century Latin translations, contains one of the 
earliest standard texts. This particular type is 
harmonized and inclusive long, rather than 
short. It is a part of what used to be called the 
Western Text. But standardization began to 
succeed about the end of the fourth century, 
progressed unevenly through the Middle Ages 
and found its period of greatest success from the 
invention of printing in the fifteenth century 
to the middle of the nineteenth century. The 
earliest datable standard version was the re- 
vision of the earlier Latin versions made by 
Jerome at the request of Pope Damasus I about 
A.D. 380. Jerome claimed that when he began 
his work there were as many different forms 
of the Latin New Testament as there were indi- 
vidual copies. To reform the Latin New Testa- 
ment by making a new revision was one thing; 
to get it universally used, another. The triumph 
of this Latin Vulgate New Testament was 
gradual and partial; it reached its climax in the 
days of the Counter Reformation. In A.D. 1546, 
by a vote of the majority of the clerics assem- 
bled at Trent, it was decided that Jerome's 
Latin revision was the New Testament. 

Early in the fifth century AD. an energetic 
leader of the Syriac-speaking church, Rabbula, 
prepared a new form of the Syriac New Testa- 
ment, With the aid of the hierarchy in Syria, 
earlier forms of the New Testament were col- 
lected and destroyed. One bishop reported that 
he found and destroyed over two hundred 
copies of Tatian's harmonized gospel (the 
Diatessaron) . In this liquidation of competing 
forms of the Bible, and in the care with which 
the new standard version was copied, the Syrian 
Christians are very similar to the Jewish scribes 
who worked on the standard form of the He- 
brew Old Testament. This fifth-century Syriac 
New Testament, called Peshitta or vulgate, won 
its victory rapidly and maintained its domi- 
nance effectively. The manuscripts in which it 
appears differ from one another very little. 

In Egypt the form of the New Testament 
which won a dominant position owed much to 
the scholarly achievements of Christians at 
Alexandria. Here under Clement and Origen, 
the young Christian movement learned much of 
the lore of the Greeks. At Alexandria the study 
of the manuscripts of the pagan classics reached 
its peak. It is not surprising, therefore, that 
Alexandrian Christians are given credit for de- 
veloping the version which is today the prefer- 
ence of most scholars. "Develop" is the exact 
word, for its witnesses are seldom unanimous. 
By the fifth century this New Testament, called 

variously the Alexandrian or the Beta or the 
Neutral, held a dominant position in Egypt. 
Its career was cut short by the Mohammedan 
conquest of Egypt in the seventh century. 

Long before the seventh century, the leader- 
ship of the Greek world had passed to Con- 
stantinople. Here there emerged a form of the 
New Testament distinct both from that of 
Alexandria and from that known in the West 
before Jerome. Today we know but little of 
its origin, and very little more of the steps by 
which it developed into the form in which we 
find it in the tenth century ruling all Greek 
Christendom. Like the Latin and Syriac vul- 
gates, like the Alexandrian New Testament, 
there is little in this Byzantine New Testament 
that is distinctive; and there is relatively little 
that was created by the makers and revisers of 
this revision. Most o its readings existed in the 
second century. The pattern in which earlier 
forms were mixed at Constantinople is, how- 
ever, a distinct pattern. From the tenth to the 
fourteenth centuries, at least four distinguish- 
able revisions of this Greek vulgate were pro- 
duced. One of its forms appears in the first 
printings of the New Testament (notably in 
those of Erasmus, Elzevir, and Stephanus) , and 
through them determines the content of the 
sixteenth-century translations into English, 
which in their turn determined the content of 
the King James Version and the English New 
Testament down to A.D. 1880. 

II. Choosing Between Variant Readings 
The individual Christian, or the translator or 
editor or printer who is his deputy, must choose 
a New Testament from a bewildering variety 
of New Testaments. How shall he choose? 

A. Methods Not Now Generally Approved. 
I. By Custom. For three centuries after the 
printing of the first Greek New Testament in 
A.D. 1525, the choice of a New Testament was 
decided by custom. The content of the earliest 
printings was based largely on what lay at hand. 
These editions became the source of the popu- 
lar versions, including all the great English 
translations of the sixteenth century. The long- 
continued vogue of the King James Version 
sanctified the Greek text from which it was 
made. When, therefore, in the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries, scholars found ancient 
manuscripts that differed widely from the re- 
ceived text and challenged its supremacy, the 
answer was that the text which the church was 
using was the correct New Testament. Its cham- 
pions voted for the customary, but they found 
other arguments to support their position. 

The Protestant champions argued (a) that 
the Holy Spirit would not permit the church to 
accept an inferior or corrupt New Testament; 



(b) that other New Testaments smelled of 
heresy; (c) that no record exists of the making 
of this text or of its adoption by the church 
an indication that it is primitive in origin and 
in its use by the church; and (d) that more 
manuscripts in Greek and in other languages, 
and more church fathers support this New 
Testament than support any other. 

2. By Majority Vote. The one objectively 
supported argument was the claim that this 
New Testament had the largest number of ad- 
herents among the manuscripts. This is the 
argument from recent usage in another form. 
Why is it that the type of New Testament pub- 
lished by Erasmus and his successors in the 
sixteenth century is generally supported by 
hundreds and hundreds of copies of the New 
Testament? Because Erasmus chose the current 
form of the New Testament to print. That form 
had won a dominant position by the tenth 
century; most of the manuscripts in existence 
today were written after the tenth century. 
Thus if the selection of a New Testament is 
determined by majority vote of the copies in 
existence, the decision would inevitably be in 
favor of a late medieval form of the Greek New 
Testament. This New Testament indeed de- 
serves to be called the Greek Vulgate. (It has 
other names as well: "the Syrian Text," "the 
Ecclesiastical Text/' "the Koine," "the Textus 
Receptus," "the Byzantine Text," "the Tradi- 
tional Text," and "the Received Text.") Is not 
the sheer weight of the witnesses to this com- 
monly used New Testament decisive in its 

This was the one question which the cham- 
pions of other forms of the New Testament had 
to answer. Their answer was a resounding 

The opponents of the Greek Vulgate forced 
its rejection by turning a spotlight on the sig- 
nificance of the family tree, of genealogy, in the 
world of manuscripts. Suppose that there are 
only ten copies of a book and that nine are all 
copies from one; then the majority can be safely 
rejected. Or suppose that nine of the ten are 
copied from a lost manuscript, and that this lost 
manuscript and the other one were both copied 
from the original; then the vote of the majority 
would not outweigh that of the minority. These 
arguments show clearly that a majority of manu- 
scripts is not necessarily to be preferred as 

It is the quality of a New Testament that 
counts, not the quantity of its adherents. Wit- 
nesses should not be counted but weighed. 
Scribes could recopy a poor New Testament a 
hundred times without making it a good New 
Testament. In the scales of judgment this 
majority text (from which the King James 

Version was translated) has been shown to be 
a relatively corrupt New Testament, out- 
weighed by others with fewer adherents. It is 
a harmonized text, a polished text, an anno- 
tated text. 

3. By Date. Another simple solution to the 
difficulty is to choose the oldest manuscript and 
follow it faithfully. If the history of the New 
Testament were a record of steady deteriora- 
tion, this could be done. But the opening period 
in the transmission of the New Testament is 
marked by a splurge of deterioration, and that 
period (to A.D. 150) is older than the oldest 
manuscript in existence. If we had a New Testa- 
ment from the second century, we could have 
no assurance that other second-century manu- 
scripts were like it or any confidence that it was 
like the original New Testament. 

4. By Quality. If the oldest is not certainly 
the best, since age and virtue are not co-ordi- 
nates, why not select the best manuscript or 
text type whatever its age may be and follow 
it? This cannot be done because no manuscript 
or text type is of the same quality throughout. 
All the manuscripts and text types are the result 
of crossbreeding and a consequent mixture in 
ancestry. No text or document is homogeneous 
enough to justify judgment on the basis of a 
part of its readings for the rest of its readings. 
Some manuscripts and text types can be justi- 
fied in part of their readings even when they 
have to be generally repudiated. 

The mixture in quality in manuscripts is due 
partly to the absence of single-volume New 
Testaments in the first two centuries. At the 
beginning each book was copied as a single 
book and circulated alone. By A.D. 200, or soon 
after, the four Gospels probably were copied 
together, as were the letters of Paul. But it is 
doubtful that any single book contained Gos- 
pels, Acts, and Paul much earlier than A.D. 300. 
When these books were put together into one 
book, they had various separate ancestries. Thus 
the fourth-century New Testaments resemble 
a freight train in which one car is New York 
Central, one is Pennsylvania, one is Chesapeake 
and Ohio, one is Atlantic Coast Line, etc. This 
is mixture by distinct blocks of text, the quality 
of one section being quite different from that 
of another. 

This type of mixture occurred even in the 
four Gospels. The celebrated Washington man- 
uscript, "the Freer Gospels," from the late 
fourth or early fifth century in Egypt has this 
type of content. Matthew has the Byzantine 
text type; the Gospel of John has the "Neutral" 
text type; Mark 1:1-5:30 has an "African" 
text type; Mark 5:31 to the end has the so- 
called Caesarean text type; Luke 1:1-8:12 has 
the "Neutral" text type; and Luke 8:13 to the 



end has the Byzantine text type. This is mixture 
in large blocks. 

But it is simple and unified compared to 
another and more common type of mixture 
which could be called repair shop mixture. Sup- 
pose some wooden Chesapeake and Ohio freight 
cars were growing old; some of the slats that 
make up the sides of the cars were broken, 
some rotted, etc. The cars go to the shops. In 
the shops are a number of old freight cars 
bought from the Pennsylvania Railroad. These 
are dismantled and used to patch the Chesa- 
peake and Ohio cars, which are returned to 
service. Again they wear out; again they go to 
the shops. This time the supply of repair parts 
comes from some old New York Central box- 
cars. The Chesapeake and Ohio cars are re- 
paired and go back into service, After this has 
happened four or five times, no railroad detec- 
tive could trace the ancestry of the train. 

5. By Genealogy. This mixture in ancestry 
and quality blocks the path to another solution 
the retracing of the genealogy from children 
to parents to grandparents and so on all the 
way back to the original. Multiple or mixed 
ancestry is the rule in these large groups. Most 
of the manuscripts are no closer than forty- 
second cousins or great-great uncles. This com- 
bination of promiscuity and gaps in the genera- 
tions baffles the constructor of family trees. In 
short, we are dealing not with a family, close- 
knit in intimate relationships, but with a nation, 
a nation to which immigrants have come from 
many countries. Genealogy will help us 
reach some of the way stations, but it will never 
take us back through the jungle of mixture to 
the original New Testament. 

6* By Agreement with Church Fathers. Nor 
can one appeal from confusion in the New 
Testaments themselves to the testimony of the 
earliest church fathers. What has been said 
above about the "oldest manuscript" can be 
said also about the oldest fathers. They dis- 
agree with one another, and even with them- 
selves. Many of them can be quoted on both 
sides of the question in passage after passage. 
Even as late as the end of the second century, 
scholarly Christians are treating the scriptures 
with considerable freedom, In the Miscellanies 
I. 19 Clement quotes I Cor. 13:12 simply as, 
"For now we see as in a mirror," rather than 
as, "For now we see as in a mirror darkly." 
Consistently throughout both the Instructor 
and the Miscellanies he omits "darkly** when 
quoting this passage. There is evidence, how- 
ever, that he knew the verse in its longer form. 
The word translated "darkly" means "a dark 
saying" or "a riddle." The omission probably 
grows out of Clement's reluctance to assert that 
the Christian, the true gnostic, now sees only in 

riddles or enigmas. In general, this freedom in 
quotation makes it difficult to determine just 
what form of the New Testament the early 
fathers were using. It is as necessary to check 
the fathers by the manuscripts as it is to check 
the manuscripts by the fathers. 

7. By Geographical Distribution. One of the 
great students of manuscripts cast a wistful eye 
at the possibility of geographical evidence as a 
clue to the original. F, C. Burkitt used to say 
that where the Old Syriac from the eastern end 
of the Christian world agreed with the Old 
Latin from the western end of the world, the 
original New Testament brought them together. 
This argument rests on the assumption that 
Syria and Africa were isolated from each other 
in so far as the copying of the New Testament 
was concerned. But we cannot be sure of this 
isolation; the Greek forerunner of the Old 
Syriac itself not the original New Testament 
could have been carried to the West to in- 
fluence the making of the Old Latin Version. 

No single or simple answer is possible. We 
cannot choose our New Testament by counting 
noses, or by venerating age, or by the selection 
of a paragon, or by constructing a family tree, 
or by preferring an early Christian who com- 
mented on the New Testament to one who 
copied it, or by assuming the independence of 
voters who live in distant towns. 

B. The Best Method a Triple One. The 
answer is complex. We choose our New Testa- 
ment by taking three steps. First of all we study 
the relationship of one New Testament to other 
New Testaments. This is sometimes called the 
external study of manuscripts. Then we study 
the relationship of one particular form of a 
passage to the alternative forms of the passage. 
This is the internal evidence. Finally, if neither 
of these helps us and the passage still does not 
make sense, we make the shrewdest guess we 
can as to the original form of the passage. This 
is conjectural emendation. 

1. External Study. It may seem silly to say 
that family trees cannot solve our problem and 
then say that we begin the solution with family 
trees. For the student of textual criticism the 
making of family trees is not wisdom, but it is 
the beginning of wisdom. He starts his investiga- 
tion with a particular manuscript of the New 
Testament. Either members of its family still 
survive or they do not. If they do, he charts the 
family tree. Then he can forget the individual 
members of the family and quote only the 
family from there on. This clears out a lot of 
underbrush. But if the other members of the 
immediate family have not survived, the student 
profits from comparing his manuscript with 
others even though he cannot reconstruct the 
family tree. Although exact location cannot be 



recovered, more general locations within larger 
groups of manuscripts are a real possibility. The 
study of these larger and looser kinships illumi- 
nates the history of the transmission of the New 
Testament. In the second place, the study of the 
relationship of the first manuscript to others 
educates the student in the habits of scribes 
and in the characteristics of individual manu- 

2. Internal Evidence. Variant readings have 
been appraised by the experts through the gen- 
erations of scholarly study according to longer 
or shorter lists of rules, or "canons of internal 
criticism." These rules were supposed to guide 
the student in choosing between alternative 
forms of the same passage. But they furnish no 
sure guide. One scholar tells us to prefer the 
shorter and less elegant reading. But if the 
shorter reading should be more elegant than 
the longer reading, what can the poor student 
do? No rule will save him. 

These lists of rules have shrunk steadily in 
the last one hundred and fifty years. Tischen- 
dorf was content with five. Hort has been fol- 
lowed by many moderns in emphasizing only 
two. These two are: (a) that reading is to be 
preferred which best suits the context, and (b) 
that reading is to be preferred which best ex- 
plains the origin of all others. Fenton John 
Anthony Hort was never satisfied with short 
words if he could find a long one; so he called 
these rules: (a) "Intrinsic Probability," and 
(b) "Transcriptional Probability." 

These two rules are nothing less than con- 
centrated formulas of all that the textual critic 
must know and bring to bear upon the solution 
of his problem. The first rule about choosing 
what suits the context exhorts the student to 
know the document he is working on so thor- 
oughly that its idioms are his idioms, its ideas 
as well known as a familiar room. The second 
rule about choosing what could have caused 
the other readings requires that the student 
know everything in Christian history which 
could lead to the creation of a variant reading. 
This involves knowledge of institutions, doc- 
trines, and events. This is knowledge of com- 
plicated and often conflicting forces and move- 
ments. Christianity from the beginning was a 
vital and creative movement. It outran the 
formation of patterns and fences. It experienced 
the love of God first and formulated it after- 
ward. No single line can chart its course; no 
one orthodoxy encompasses it. 

In this complexity the student is guided not 
by rules, but by knowledge and judgment. He 
is guided by his knowledge of scribes and manu- 
scripts, of Christian history and institutions 
and theology, and of the books whose textual 
form he is striving to perfect. He is guided also 

by his own judgment, a quality through which 
the application of reason to knowledge becomes 
an art. 

3. Conjectural Emendation. The quality of 
judgment is needed in the decision as to the 
use of conjectural emendation in the study of 
the New Testament. If after external and in- 
ternal evidence has been studied, the passage 
in question still yields no sense in any of the 
forms preserved in the manuscripts, a shrewd 
guess as to the nature of a possible primitive 
error is legitimate. 

The careless use of conjecture is as indefensi- 
ble as the refusal to use it at all. There can be 
no doubt that some readings preserved in our 
manuscripts were created by the conjectures of 
ancient editors. To use their conjectures in 
various passages because they are recorded in 
manuscripts and are therefore objective, and 
to refuse to make our own best guess when the 
situation requires it, is not a case of good judg- 
ment. Those scholars whose stubborn devotion 
to objectivity and the evidence of the manu- 
scripts leads them to reject all conjecture de- 
serve A. E. Housman's indictment: they "use 
MSS as drunkards use lamp-posts, not to light 
them on their way but to dissimulate their insta- 
bility." 6 In general, the students of the manu- 
scripts and the translators have used conjecture 
parsimoniously; it is seldom that a modern 
edition of the New Testament will contain 
more than two or three conjectures. For in view 
of the wealth of manuscript evidence, it is 
probable that the original reading has survived. 

4. Two Illustrations. No statement of theory 
is complete unless it contains examples of its 
application. The larger variations are the easier 
to describe, and a review of these suggests the 
choice of the story of the adulterous woman 
found in some New Testaments in John 7:53- 
8:11. Was this or was it not a part of the 
original Gospel of John? 

The Freer Gallery of Art in Washington con- 
tains a justly famous Greek manuscript of the 
four Gospels from the fourth or fifth century 
A.D. It is the habit of the gallery to provide 
souvenir postcards for interested visitors. For 
some time they distributed a postcard of this 
manuscript of the four Gospels. The photo- 
graphed page begins at John 7:46 in the middle 
of the word "servants" and ends in 8:16 with 
the word "sent." On the back of the card ap- 
pears a translation of John 8:3-11. This transla- 
tion is sensational because not a word of it 
appears on the other side of the card. The 
Washington Gospels do not contain the story 
of the adulterous woman anywhere. The treach- 
erous character of ignorance is shown by the 

* M. Manilii Astronomicon; Liber Primus (2nd ed.j 
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937), p. liii. 



fact that the maker of the card chose this page 
to photograph because the story of the adulter- 
ous woman was one of his favorite scripture 
passages. He chose the page of the manuscript 
that began before it and ended after it, assumed 
that it contained it, and copied the story from 
a printed King James Version. 

The external evidence on this passage is as 

(a) It is absent from all Greek manuscripts 
earlier than the ninth century, with the excep- 
tion of a fifth-century Greek-Latin manuscript. 

(6) No Greek commentator before the twelfth 
century comments on this passage, although 
many comment on its context. 

(c) It appears in the majority of Greek 
manuscripts after the tenth century. 

(d) It appears in various locations: (i) after 
John 7:53 most frequently; (ii) after Luke 21 
in Family 13; (iii) after John 7:36 in MS 225; 
(iv) at the end of John in a dozen Greek and 
many Armenian manuscripts; (v) in the mar- 
gins of many manuscripts at John 7:53. 

(e) It is marked as an insertion in scores of 
Greek manuscripts. 

(/) It appears in widely varying forms. The 
student who is comparing the Gospel of John 
with a printed text is usually amazed at the 
amount of variation that begins as soon as he 
enters this story. Nine distinct forms of it are 
well attested in Greek. 

(g) It is known in the Latin West earlier 
than the fourth century; known to Ambrose, 
Augustine, and Jerome, who said that many 
Greek and Latin manuscripts contained it; it 
appears in half a dozen pre-Vulgate Latin 
manuscripts and in the Latin Vulgate. 

(h) It is known in some form in Syria by the 
middle of the third century. It is quoted in the 
Syriac Teaching of the Apostles and in the 
Apostolic Constitutions which are based on that. 

This external evidence is best explained by 
the assumption that this story was no part of 
the original Gospel of John but entered the 
Greek New Testament through the Latin ver- 
sions. This assumption is supported by the 
internal evidence. 

If we apply the test of suitability to context, 
the vote is still negative. This woman is the 
only sinner in the Fourth Gospel. Sin defined 
as immorality does not exist in this Gospel. 
Nowhere else does the Fourth Evangelist sug- 
gest the quality of pity, mercy, or compassion. 
There are no "publicans and sinners" in John's 
gospel. John had no repentance or forgiveness 
of sins. No person of notorious character is 
introduced. Nowhere is any group of sinners 
mentioned as companions of Jesus. 
Detailed studies of vocabulary and style show 

that this story is as alien to John in form as it 
is in idea. 

Furthermore, the story does not fit the con- 
text because it interrupts the narrative. If this 
story is absent, then the great day of the feast 
of Tabernacles is signalized by Jesus' twin 
declarations that he is the Water of Life and 
that he is the Light of the World. These say- 
ings correspond to two symbolic acts performed 
on that day: the pouring of the water, and the 
lighting of the golden lamps. If the story of 
the adulterous woman is interposed, the first 
passage alone falls within the time of the feast, 
and the second is deferred till the day after its 
conclusion. Moreover, the two sayings are then 
separated by an unrelated incident. 

The second test has little force here. Does its 
presence or its absence in the original best 
explain the other? It is hard to imagine a good 
reason for its wholesale omission. But Augus- 
tine's imagination was strong enough to think 
up a reason: 

Some of little faith, or rather enemies of the true 
faith, I suppose from a fear lest their wives should 
gain impunity in sin, removed from, their manu- 
scripts the Lord's act o indulgence to the adul- 
teress. 6 

The generality of the "omission" in early Greek 
sources can hardly be explained this way. Nor 
is Augustine's argument supported by the evi- 
dence from Luke's Gospel, where even greater 
acts of compassion are left untouched by the 
scribes who lack this story in John. The external 
evidence and the evidence from intrinsic proba- 
bility show that this story was no part of the 
original Gospel of John. 

As an example of conjectural emendation, 
we may consider a suggested correction of John 
19:29. In this account of the Crucifixion the 
King James Version and the Revised Standard 
Version agree in the use of the word "hyssop." 
"A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put 
a sponge full of the wine on hyssop and held 
it to his mouth." Goodspeed translates this "on 
a pike," and gives the following commentary: 

Matthew and Mark speak of a reed or stick . , . 
being used for the purpose. But hyssop was a low 
grassy plant, seldom over two feet high, and how 
it could be used for such a purpose is hard to see. 
It is mentioned in I Kings 4:33 as the most insig- 
nificant of plants. . . . Modern scholars are inclined 
to dismiss the word "hyssop" as a graphic error 
(Souter) for the Greek word 6crcrcp [hysso], a pike, 
which would be the most practical and natural 
thing to use in such a situation. If this . . . was the 
original reading, it must have been changed very 
early to hyssop, under the influence of the use of 
hyssop before the Passover to sprinkle the blood of 

6 Ad Pollentium de Adulterinis Confugiis II. vii. 6. 



the Passover lamb upon the doorposts (Exod. 
12:22) / 

In such a case the reader must judge whether 
John, who had read Mark, would care more for 
accuracy in historical detail or more for sym- 
bolic allusion. In other words, is the nature 
of the Fourth Gospel in general such as to 
support or reject this conjecture? 

With these brief examples we leave the dis- 
cussion of method. The method begins by the 
comparison of manuscript with manuscript a 
study of external relationships. But since the 
student cannot accurately reconstruct the arche- 
type or source of each large group, he turns to 
the appraisal of variants in specific passages. 
Here he tries to select that reading which best 
suits its context and best explains the origin 
of the other readings in the same passage. Be- 
yond this, the student must make the best- 
informed and most judicious guesses possible 
to him. 

III. Summary 

The problem that confronts the printer or 
translator of the New Testament is one of selec- 
tion from variant readings of the same passage. 
A lengthy study of the causes of these variants 
illuminates the history of' the New Testament 
in the period when it was written by hand and 
also illustrates the method by which the prob- 
lem is solved in particular passages. The method 
is basically one of reversing the flow of history. 
In history, as manuscript begets manuscript the 
number of variant readings is increased. In 
manuscript study (textual criticism to the 
scholar) variant readings are decreased until a 
reading is selected which may be regarded as 
the original with a high degree of probability. 

The raw materials for this work are the 
handwritten copies of the New Testament, 
whether in Greek or in other languages, plus 
the copies of the fathers who quote the New 
Testament. Most essays of this sort devote con- 
siderable time to summary catalogues of these 
documents. In this article no effort has been 

7 Problems of New Testament Translation (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1945), pp. 115-16. Used by 

made to present such a catalogue. The hand- 
books noted in the bibliography, especially 
those by Kenyon and Vaganay, provide exten- 
sive though not comprehensive information on 
these "materials of New Testament criticism." 
Since the discovery of hitherto unknown mate- 
rials proceeds apace, all such lists are out of 
date within five years of publication. Only the 
specialist can be expected to keep abreast of 
this flood. 

The minister and the educated layman can- 
not learn anything comprehensive and accurate 
about the manuscripts themselves from brief 
statements. Here of all places a little knowledge 
is exceedingly dangerous. The nonspecialist 
should know that we have several thousand 
manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek 
and other thousands in more than half a dozen 
important translations into other languages, 
with at least a score of church fathers to be 
studied either in printed "critical" editions or 
in handwritten copies. Beyond this the non- 
specialist must clearly understand the nature of 
the problem and the methods by which we are 
steadily though slowly arriving at more accurate 

[Other helpful discussions of the text of the 
New Testament can be found in the Introduc- 
tion to the several New Testament books. See 
especially Vol. VII, pp. 24446; Vol. VIII, pp. 

IV. Selected Bibliography 

COLWELL, ERNEST C. The Study of the Bible. 

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937. Chs. 

GOODSPEED, EDGAR J. The Making of the English New 

Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

KENYON, FREDERIC GEORGE. The Text of the Greek 

Bible. London: Duckworth, 1937. 
LAKE, KIRSOPP. The Text of the New Testament, 

ed. Silva New. London: Christophers, 1928. 
PRICE, IRA MAURICE. The Ancestry of Our English 

Bible: An Account of Manuscripts, Texts, and 

Versions of the Bible f ed. W. A. Irwin and Allen 

Wikgren. New York: Harper & Bros., 1949. 
VAGANAY, LEO. An Introduction to the Textual 

Criticism of the New Testament, tr. B. V. Miller. 

St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1937, 




I, Beginnings 
II. The Wycliffiie Bible 

III. Early Translation into Other Languages 

IV. William Tyndale and the First Printed New 

V. George Joye 

VI. Miles Coverdale and the First English Bible 
VII. The First Licensed Bible, 1537 
VIII. The Taveraer Bible of 1539 
IX. The First Authorized Bible: The Great 

Bible of 1539 
X. The Geneva Bible 

The Bible is by far the most translated book 
in the world. The Jews translated their scrip- 
tures into Greek and other languages, and the 
early Christians naturally felt the need of bring- 
ing the biblical message to every people in its 
own tongue. 1 The modern missionary move- 
ments continued and expanded these efforts 
until now the Bible has been rendered into well 
over a thousand languages and effectively cir- 
culated in printed form throughout the entire 

I, Beginnings 

The story of the English Bible begins with 
the introduction of Christianity into Britain. 
When and how that happened are obscure, but 
in the early third century Tertullian and 
Origen witness to the existence of British Chris- 
tianity, the former stating that there were places 
in Britain subject to Christ which Roman arms 
could not penetrate. Initial gains by the church 
were wiped out by the Teutonic invasions of the 
fifth century, but significant advance began 
again with the coming in A.D. 597 of mission- 
aries sent out by Pope Gregory, and Christianity 
became firmly established. 

In Britain, as elsewhere, missionary work pro- 
ceeded at first almost entirely by means of the 
spoken word. Any translation of the Bible con- 
sisted of a free and extemporaneous treatment 
of the Latin text in vernacular speech. In ser- 
mon and minstrel song the Scriptures thus first 
became known in the earliest English form, that 
is, Anglo-Saxon; and soon partial translations 
and paraphrases were put into writing in homi- 
lies, commentaries, and glosses in Latin manu- 
* See pp. 32-83 in this volume. 

XL The Second Authorized Bible: The Bishops* 

Bible of 1568 
XII. The First Roman Catholic Bible in English 

XIII. The King James Version of 1611 

XIV. The Revised Version 

XV. The Modern Speech Versions 
XVI. Jewish and Roman Catholic Versions 
XVII, The Revised Standard Version 
XVIII. Story Without End 
XIX. Tables of Illustrative Readings 
XX. Selected Bibliography 

scripts, A complete translation, however, is un- 
known in this Anglo-Saxon period. No real 
popular demand for such a production existed 
since few people could read, and manuscripts 
were too expensive for the average person to 
buy. A Bible for laymen was also unthinkable 
in the medieval church, which saw in the wide 
use of the Bible a threat to unity and to ecclesi- 
astical control over the interpretation of the 
text, as well as a profanation of the Scriptures 
through such rough dialects as the Anglo-Saxon. 
Yet much of the biblical contents was made 
known through ritual, art, religious drama, and 
Bible picture books, the so-called Biblia pau- 
perum or "Bibles of the poor." 

In the earlier period, therefore, we have 
hardly more than a number of interesting tradi- 
tions. A certain Caedmon, a seventh-century 
cowherd of northern England, overnight be- 
came divinely inspired and commissioned to 
sing versifications of the biblical stories as they 
were translated for him into Anglo-Saxon. Re- 
mains (although later) of such metrical para- 
phrases are to be found. In southern England at 
the same time, that is, about A.D. 700, Abbot 
Aldhelm is reported by King Alfred the Great 
to have used the minstrel technique effectively 
to procure an audience, and Cynewulf, greatest 
of Anglo-Saxon poets, also contributed numer- 
ous biblical allusions. The Venerable Bede is 
supposed to have translated the Lord's Prayer 
and the Apostles* Creed for the benefit of priests 
who were a bit weak in their Latin, and to have 
urged a contemporary churchman, Egbert, to 
similar activity. To Egbert is ascribed a transla- 
tion of the Gospels, and a disciple, Cuthbert, 
credits Bede with a version of the Gospel of 



John, the work being dramatically completed in 
Bede's dying moments. By the middle o the 
eighth century, then, probably all the Gospels 
existed in Anglo-Saxon. In the late ninth cen- 
tury King Alfred apparently promoted biblical 
study and translation, and to him is attributed 
among other things an Anglo-Saxon version of 
the Decalogue, which headed his "Book of 
Laws," and an unfinished version of the Psalter. 

Of extant Anglo-Saxon versions the earliest 
is probably the British Museum's Vespasian 
Psalter, a ninth-century Latin text with a crude, 
interlinear gloss representing middle England 
speech. A similar manuscript in the Biblio- 
theque Nationale, the Paris Psalter, contains a 
southern gloss. It has been ascribed to Alfred 
the Great, but in its present form appears to be 
a century or two later. About a dozen such 
Psalters are known from the ninth and tenth 
centuries. Other early remains consist of a tenth- 
century partial gloss of Proverbs and eight 
copies of the Gospels in various dialects. One 
of these, the famous Lindisfarne Gospels, is a 
British Museum manuscript copied by Eadfrid, 
bishop of Lindisfarne, about A.D. 687 and 
glossed in northern speech. It is also beautifully 
illuminated. A similar tenth-century text, 
named the Rushworth Gospels after its donor, 
is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The other 
extant manuscripts are all probably copies or 
descendants of a West-Saxon document of about 
A.D. 1000, ascribed by a note or colophon to 
Aelfric, later Archbishop of Canterbury, who 
is known at about this time for his activity in 
making the Scriptures available in English. 
These Gospels contain only the Anglo-Saxon 
text and deserve rather to be called translations. 
Aelfric did make a condensed version of the 
Pentateuch and translations of several Old 
Testament books in a free and idiomatic style. 
His sermons and commentaries also contain 
translation of scriptural text, and he claims to 
have made use of earlier Anglo-Saxon versions. 
Similar sermonic efforts of this and later periods 
also exist in such works as the Blickling Homi- 

Further translation was discouraged by the 
Norman Conquest in 1066. But some metrical 
paraphrases based on Genesis and Exodus cir- 
culated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, 
and a similar version of the Gospels and Acts is 
preserved in an Oxford manuscript of some 
twenty thousand lines known as the "Ormu- 
lum." after the author, Orm, an Augustinian 
monk who gave as the motive for his efforts, 
"that all young Christian folks may depend 
upon the gospel only, and may follow with all 
their might its holy teaching, in thought and 
word and deed." 

In the face of the French usage of the time 

the Anglo-Saxon persisted, and re-emerged, 
though greatly changed, in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, when political events had produced a new 
national unity and consciousness, and literary 
activity blossomed forth in Chaucer and others. 
The language was now less confused by dialec- 
tical variations. 

In this new era we have a Psalter in Latin 
and English dated about 1320 and doubtfully 
attributed to the poet William of Shoreham; 
and from perhaps a few years later comes a 
gloss found in another Latin Psalter and ac- 
credited to Richard Rolle, the "Hermit of 
Hampole." The latter was copied several times 
for a century or so. Other ventures of some 
popularity were the translation (ca. 1360) of a 
French text and commentary on Revelation, 
and a little later a French-Latin collection of 
gospel narratives which were formed into a kind 
of harmony of the life of Jesus and used as late 
as the fifteenth century. 

The language of these early versions, espe- 
cially of the pre-Norman period, is of course 
quite strange to us, being as close or closer to 
modern Germanic languages than to modern 
English, If these versions exerted any influence 
upon the later English Bible, it was mostly in 
simplicity and directness of tone and expression. 

//. The Wydiffite Bible 

So far as we know, the first complete English 
Bible was due to the influence and activity of 
John Wycliffe (1324M384), the able and elo- 
quent Oxford scholar called the "morning star 
of the Reformation" because of the religious 
convictions which he developed and propagated. 
In common with later Protestantism he empha- 
sized the necessity of providing the layman with 
the opportunity of reading the Bible. Since he 
was also active in efforts for social justice, his 
appeal was widespread among the common peo- 
ple. After his forced retirement to Lutterworth 
in 1382 and his death in 1384, his followers, the 
"poor priests" or "Lollards," carried on his work 
in an influential traveling ministry of teaching, 
preaching, and distribution of the Scriptures. 
Wycliffe managed to survive the attack of his 
enemies and to die a natural death. But his 
writings were banned, and the Council of Con- 
stance in 1415 officially ordered his body as well 
as his books burned. The cause of religion was 
thus "advanced" by the digging up and burning 
of his bones in 1428, the ashes being thrown 
into the river Swift. 

The dispersal of Wycliffe's remains was sym- 
bolic, however, of real religious progress 
through the spread of the Scriptures which he 
brought about. The Wycliffite Bible has justly 
been described as an event rather than merely 
a book, both on this account and because of its 



effect upon English prose style. While Wydiffe's 
exact part in the project is obscure, he never- 
theless appears to have been the moving spirit 
behind it. A pupil and colleague, Nicholas of 
Hereford, may have done most of the work, 
assisted perhaps by another friend, John Purvey. 
The latter also is credited, though uncertainly, 
with the revision which appeared about the 
year 1388 or later and became the popular and 
standard form. The original seems to have been 
completed in 1382, or a little later, and was 
more literal than the revision. The translation 
was made from the current Latin text, and so 
included the Old Testament apocryphal books. 

A definitive attempt to distinguish the origi- 
nal Wycliffite Bible from the "Purvey revision" 
was not made until 1850, when J. Forshall and 
F. Madden published the complete text of both 
in four volumes, representing the result of 
twenty-two years of work and the examination 
of 170 manuscripts. 2 Strangely enough, this also 
was the first printing of the complete version, 
only the New Testament having been previously 
so published, the Purvey form in 1731 and the 
earlier form in 1848. Printing had been intro- 
duced into England in 1477 by William Caxton, 
and much scripture circulated in other publica- 
tions, for example, in his own translation of the 
Golden Legende, which contained the first 
printing in 1483 of portions of the English 
Bible. But an edict of 1408 forbidding unau- 
thorized translation and publication in English 
or other languages appears effectively to have 
discouraged printing of the Bible as such in the 
fifteenth century. 

The fact of the survival of so many manu- 
scripts of the Wycliffite Bible in spite of opposi- 
tion and destruction indicates its widespread 
influence. Some of its diction and phraseology 
and much of its spirit lived on in the main- 
stream of subsequent translation and revision. 8 
Replacing a number of similar and fragmentary 
attempts at translation made in the same period, 
it remained the only English Bible until the 
sixteenth century. 

III. Early Translation into Other Languages 

In the manuscript era a development of ver- 
nacular versions similar to that in England 
occurred also in the other countries of western 
Europe. Early French activity seems to have 
culminated in a Norman-French Bible made at 
the University of Paris and used in northern 
France around 1250. In Germany early frag- 
mentary translation is exemplified by the 

2 The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testa- 
ments, with the Apocryphal Books, in the Earliest English 
Versions Made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe 
and His Followers (Oxford: University Press, 1850). 

8 E.g., "compass sea and land," "son of perdition/' 
"God forbede," "peradventure." 

Monsee fragment of Matthew, by a gospel har- 
mony, and by an old Saxon poem Heiland 
("Savior") , of the ninth century. Translations 
multiplied so rapidly that before the time of 
Luther about fifty complete German editions 
had been produced! In most of the Western 
countries, owing doubtless to the earlier impact 
of the Reformation, printed editions of the 
Scriptures appeared sooner than in England. 
Beginning with the Strasbourg German Bible 
of Mentel in 1466, there were eighteen print- 
ings in German before the important Luther 
New Testament of 1522 and Bible of 1534. In 
French the first printing, a New Testament, oc- 
curred about 1478 at Lyons, and the complete 
Bible appeared in 1487. Even before this, the 
Italians (1471) and Dutch (1477) had their 
Bible in the printed vernacular. Swedish, Bo- 
hemian, Slavonic, Russian, and Danish printing 
in whole or in part preceded English. Other 
subsequent editions of non-English scripture 
will be mentioned in connection with the Eng- 
lish versions upon which they exerted an in- 

IV. William Tyndale and the First Printed 
New Testament 

With the sixteenth century we enter into the 
most creative period in the history of the Eng- 
lish Bible. It was a time of bitter Protestant- 
Catholic conflict, of widespread ignorance of the 
Scriptures, even among the clergy, and of initial 
opposition to vernacular translations in Eng- 
land by both Catholic and Anglican alike. But 
forces were at work in the Renaissance and 
Reformation which in a very few years led to 
the legal dissemination of the Bible in English. 
The momentous discovery of printing took place. 
The Scriptures were made known in their origi- 
nal languages, the first printed Hebrew Bible 
appearing in 1488 and the first Greek New 
Testament, the edition of Erasmus, in 1516. 
Scholars like Erasmus and reformers like Luther 
spoke and worked for the right of all to read the 
sacred text. The vernacular languages, includ- 
ing English, had developed to the point where 
they could be used as literary mediums. They, 
as well as Hebrew and Greek, were studied in 
the newly founded universities. These and other 
factors combined to set the stage for the pro- 
duction of the first printed English Bible. 

At this time William Tyndale, born about 
1492 or earlier, and educated at Oxford and 
Cambridge, came upon the scene. His experi- 
ence as chaplain and tutor led him to the con- 
viction that "it was impossible to stablysh the 
laye people in any truth, excepte the scripture 
were playnly layde before their eyes in their 



mother tonge." * And to a prominent church- 
man of his time he addressed his well-known 
words: "If God spare my lyfe, ere many yeares 
I wyl cause a boye that dryveth the plough shall 
know more of the scripture than thou doest!" 5 
For the task which he set himself Tyndale was 
well qualified both by an excellent knowledge 
of Greek and Hebrew and by an ability to write 
English of such felicity of phraseology and 
simple, graceful style that it has become im- 
mortalized in the English Bible. 

Another necessary quality which Tyndale 
possessed was perseverance in the face of opposi- 
tion, calumny, and persecution. For the clergy, 
with government support, were still opposed to 
translation in general, and in particular disliked 
Tyndale's developing Protestant views. His vig- 
orous denunciation of the clergy did not help 
his cause. His own account tells of inability to 
find support for his project in England from 
Bishop Tunstall of London, and of the neces- 
sity of going to the Continent to pursue the 
work. He was befriended by a London mer- 
chant, Humphrey Monmouth, in whose home 
he apparently began his translation. There also 
he may first have become informed about the 
tenets of Lutheranism, and been led to realize 
"not only that there was no rowme in my lorde 
of londons palace to translate the new testa- 
ment, but also that there was no place to do it 
in all englonde." 6 

In 1524, therefore, Tyndale left for Hamburg, 
and by the middle of 1525 his New Testament 
was complete and printing was begun at Co- 
logne. A quarto edition was interrupted by the 
authorities at the instigation of a bitter enemy 
of the reformers, Cochlaeus (Johan Dobneck) . 
From it only a thirty-one leaf fragment of Mat- 
thew in the British Museum is extant, although 
it is believed that three thousand copies were 
published after the work was resumed at 
Worms. Here also an anonymous octavo edition 
of the same size was first published. So vigorous 
was the opposition of the English authorities, 
however, and so zealously did king and bishops 
collaborate to destroy the Tyndale publications 
as they were smuggled into England, that only 
two copies of this octavo issue survived, and one 
of these is very fragmentary. One, lacking only 
the title page, is in the Baptist College at Bris- 
tol, England. The other is preserved in the 
library of St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Tyn- 
dale, however, was enabled to continue for some 
time by the support of certain London mer- 

* Alfred W. Pollard, Records of the English Bible 
(Oxford: Henry Frowde, 1911), p. 95. 

8 John Foxe, The Acts and Monuments of the Church 
(ed. M. Hobart Seymour; New York: Robert Carter & 
Bros., 1855), p. 542. 

Pollard, op. tit., pp. 97-98. 

chants, in particular of one Augustine Packyn- 
ton, who contrived to raise money by selling 
New Testaments to the Bishop of London for 
burning, thus keeping both Tyndale and the 
bishop's bonfire going. 

Tyndale's association with Luther at Witten- 
berg and his manifest indebtedness to Luther's 
German New Testament were special reasons 
for official condemnation. The single-column, 
Gothic black-letter type, the prologue, prefaces, 
and marginal notes showed the influence of the 
reformer's edition. The authorities were also 
provoked by the substitution of new terms for 
certain ecclesiastically sacred ones, such as 
"elder" for "priest," "repentance" for "pen- 
ance," "congregation" for "church," etc. 

A revision by Tyndale was issued in 1534; 
and another corrected edition published in 
1535 became the basis for all later revision. The 
Greek text underlying the work remained close 
to the Erasmus editions of 1519 and 1522, un- 
fortunately for the accuracy of the English New 
Testament for years to come. 

Tyndale also undertook to translate the Old 
Testament and made a significant contribution 
to that end, although unable to complete the 
work before his death. He published the Penta- 
teuch in 1530 and Jonah in 1531. But the 
authorities finally apprehended him through 
the treachery of a friend, and after an imprison- 
ment of a year and a half near Brussels (during 
which he probably completed the text through 
Chronicles), he was strangled and burned at 
the stake on October 6, 1536. His famous dying 
prayer, according to Foxe, was "Lord, open the 
King of England's eyes." 7 Meanwhile, the situa- 
tion in England had already changed for the 
better under Cromwell, who had even sought 
Tyndale's release, and a complete English Bible 
was now in relatively unimpeded circulation. 

The creative nature of Tyndale's work cannot 
be overestimated. Though he freely consulted 
the Vulgate, Luther, and Erasmus* new Latin 
version, and was doubtless influenced here and 
there by the current Wycliffite English, his pro- 
duction is characterized by great originality and 
vigor. It became, in fact, a foundation for all 
subsequent efforts of revision, so much so that 
80 per cent or more of the English down 
through the Revised Version has been estimated 
to be basically his in those portions of the Bible 
in which he wrought with such skill and devo- 
tion. 8 

* Op. dt., p. 544. 

8 Recent special studies include Henry Guppy, William 
Tindale and the Earlier Translators of the Bible into 
English (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1925); J. F. 
Mozley, William Tyndale (New York: The Macmillan 
Co., 1937); S. L. Greenslade, ed., The Work of William 
Tindale (London: Blackie & Son, 1938), 



V. George Joye 

A former friend and collaborator of Tyn- 
dale's, George Joye, deserves mention at this 
point as a contributor to the growing number 
of biblical books printed in English. Joye had 
incurred Tyndale's disfavor by bringing out 
unauthorized revisions of the latter's New 
Testament in 1534 and 1535, and a sharp con- 
troversy ensued between the two. He should 
apparently be credited, however, with the trans- 
lation and publication of a portion of the Old 
Testament extending from Psalms through 
Lamentations. This includes a rendering of 
Isaiah from the Latin (1531) which exerted 
some influence upon Coverdale's version of 
1535, a translation of Jeremiah and Lamenta- 
tions (1534) which included the "Song of 
Moses" to "magnify ye our Lorde for the fall of 
our Pharao the bishop of Rome," probably an 
edition of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (1535) , 
and a Psalter (1534) , some readings of which 
have continued down through the King James 
Version. He has recently been credited with the 
possible authorship of the first Psalter printed 
in English, a translation from Latin pseudony- 
mously published in 1550, 8 Joye's style is rather 
free, a reflection of his attitude appearing in a 
declaration that "as for me I had as lief put the 
trwthe in the text as in the margent," and "I 
wolde the scripture were so purely and playnly 
translated that it neded nether note, glose nor 
scholia, so that the reder might once swimme 
without a corke." 10 

VI. Miles Coverdale and the First English Bible 

The completion and publication of the first 
complete printed English Bible was, however, 
the work of Miles Coverdale (1488-1568). 
Coverdale had studied at Cambridge, had be- 
come a priest and friar, and had apparently also 
found it discreet to spend some years outside of 
England because of Protestant convictions, He 
became acquainted with Tyndale and his work, 
and may have been encouraged to attempt a 
complete edition, of the English Scriptures, 
while still abroad, by statements of King Henry 
VIII favorable to an English Bible "by great 
lerned and Catholyke persones," and by activi- 
ties of similar import by Archbishop Latimer 
and Thomas Cromwell. The edition which he 
published in 1535, printed perhaps at Cologne 
or Marburg, was not authorized in any way, but 

8 Charles C Butterworth, The Literary Lineage of the 
King James Bible (Philadelphia: University of Pennsyl- 
vania Press, 1941), pp. 64-70, 87-91. The version was 
faiily popular, especially in connection with various 
devotional books known as "primers," and together with 
an independent version of the Psalter, found in the 
latter, it represents frequent literary linkage between 
the Wychffite and later forms. 
10 Pollard, op at., pp. 194-95. 

Coverdale dedicated it to the king and queen 
in polite and nattering phraseology, and it met 
with no serious opposition. (The elaborate 
woodcut title page by Holbein shows the king 
handing out the Bible to the clergy.) This 
toleration is particularly noteworthy because 
Tyndale's translation was the basis of the work 
in the New Testament and Pentateuch. 

Hostility toward the version was doubtless 
lessened by Coverdale's mild disposition and 
tractable attitude. In his dedication he declares, 
"I have nether wrested nor altered so moch as 
one worde for the mayntenaunce of any maner 
of secte." In notes and prologues he eliminated 
controversial data, and in the text he restored 
most of the ecclesiastically favored terms which 
Tyndale had altered. It is quite possible also 
that the first edition was anonymous, and that 
the dedicatory "Epistle unto the Kynges hygh- 
nesse," signed by Coverdale, first appeared in 
a 1537 reprinting by James Nicolson. The origi- 
nal title page read: "Biblia: The Bible / that is, 
the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testa- 
ment, faithfully and truly translated out of 
Douche and Latyn in to English. M.D-XXXV " 
Other editions of the same year printed in Eng- 
land omitted the reference to Dutch (i.e., Ger- 
man) and Latin, which implied Lutheran and 
Catholic connections, and modified a prefatory 
reference to dependence upon Luther. 

Actually, Coverdale did translate from the 
Latin and German in those sections of the Old 
Testament in which he did not use Tyndale. 
It is generally doubted that he knew much if 
any Hebrew, but his acquaintance with German 
was good. He states in his dedication that he 
translated out of "fyve sundry interpreters"; 
and besides Tyndale, these have been identified 
as the Vulgate, Luther, Pagninus' rather literal 
Latin translation of 1528, and the Zurich Swiss- 
German Bible of 1527-29 by Leo Juda, Zwingli, 
and others. The Vulgate rather than the He- 
brew order of books was used in the Old Testa- 
ment, and the Apocrypha are included, al- 
though their authority is questioned. The for- 
mat and type resembled Tyndale's, but the text 
was set in double columns and decorated with 
sixty-eight woodcuts, and chapter summaries 
were introduced. 

In general, the Tyndale portions of the edi- 
tion are superior in quality, but Coverdale often 
improved the phrasing by reason of a special 
aptitude for euphonious English and for a 
fluent, although frequently diffuse, form of ex- 
pression. While the work is uneven in this 
respect, some permanent contribution was thus 
made to the language of the English Bible, here 
as well as in later improvements of his which 
appeared in three editions of the Latin-English 
New Testament (1538) and in the Great Bible 



of 1539. In particular, his version of the Psalter, 
as it appears in the latter, has remained a part 
of the Anglican Prayer Book to this day. Phrase- 
ology appearing here first with Coverdale in- 
cluded "Thou anoyntest my heade with oyle"; 
"the valley of the shadowe of deeth"; "but the 
way of the vngodly shal perishe" (see also table 
on pp. 101-4) . 

Vll. The First Licensed Bible, 1537 

Developing opinion in favor of an English 
Bible available to all without fear or favor now 
appeared in the renewal of a request to the 
king by the bishops. With a new translation by 
the bishops in mind, an injunction was actually 
drawn up in 1536, but not published until 1538, 
instructing the clergy to provide both a Latin 
and English Bible for every parish church. 
Meanwhile, two Bibles were published in 1537 
which claimed to be licensed by the king. One, 
the printing of Coverdale by James Nicolson, 
probably merely assumed this status; the other, 
of obscure origin, but published under the 
name of Thomas Matthew, perhaps at Antwerp, 
obtained official support. 11 

Although this version largely followed Tyn- 
dale, incorporating also here for the first time 
his Old Testament translations of Joshua 
through Chronicles, and even reintroducing his 
prologues and notes, Cranmer, in his interces- 
sion with Cromwell to obtain royal approval, 
intimated that this was a "new Bible, both of a 
new translacion and of a new prynte," and 
claimed that "so farre as I have redde thereof 
I like it better than any other translacion here- 
tofore made." Rather than cast aspersions upon 
Cranmer's Bible reading, we may suppose that 
he was motivated by the desire to have some- 
thing to serve until the production of the pro- 
jected bishops' version, which in his appeal to 
Cromwell he pessimistically dated at "a day 
after domesday." Whether king or counselors 
were acquainted with the facts about the re- 
vision is uncertain, but the mysterious circum- 
stances of its origin may reflect an attempt to 
cover up the rather embarrassing approval of a 
Bible so largely the work of a man whose trans- 
lations were officially condemned and who him- ' 
self had just been burned at the stake as a 

Although a Thomas Matthew of Colchester 
is known in connection with earlier biblical 
study, the work on the Bible of 1537 is generally 
attributed to John Rogers, a Cambridge gradu- 
ate and friend of Tyndale, who in 1555 became 

"The title page read: "The Byble, which is all the 
holy Scripture: In whych are conteyned the Olde and 
Newe Testament, truly and purely translated into 
Englysh by Thomas Matthew . . .M.D.XXXVU, Set 
forth with the Kinges most gracyous lycence," 

the protomartyr in the persecution of Protes- 
tants under Bloody Mary. There is little depar- 
ture from the Tyndaie text, but the influence 
of Olivtkan's French Bible of 1535 and Lefvre's 
French Bible of 1534 is evident in the margin- 
alia, in a new preface to the Apocrypha, and in 
the added "Prayer of Manasses." Whatever the 
true circumstances of its origin and publication, 
the Matthew Bible is notable for its official 
status, for its use of the heretofore unpublished 
Tyndale portions of the Old Testament, and 
for the fact that it became the chief basis for 
future revisions. 

VHL The Taverner Bible of 1539 

In 1539 a revision of the Matthew Bible, 
minus most of the notes and polemic data, was 
issued by Richard Taverner at the instigation 
of Cromwell or of the king's printer, Thomas 
Barthlet. The title was as follows: "The Most 
Sacred Bible: Whiche is the holy scripture, 
conteyning the old and new testament, trans- 
lated in to English, and newly recognised with 
great diligence after most faythful exemplars, 
by Rychard Taverner. . . . Prynted at London in 
Fletestrete. ... by lohn Byddell, for Thomas 
Barthlet. . . . M.D.XXXIX." Taverner was a 
Cambridge and Oxford student who had been 
interested for some time in the English Bible. 
He knew Greek well, and especially therefore in 
'the New Testament he introduced some inde- 
pendent renderings of real merit, several of which 
entered into subsequent English revisions. But 
this version was soon superseded by another re- 
vision and therefore exercised relatively little in- 
fluence within the mainstream of the English 
Bible. It does have the honor of being the first 
to be printed completely in England. 

IX. The First Authorized Bible: The Great 
Bible of 1539 

A more significant revision appeared in the 
same year with the "Great Bible," so called from 
its size, or "Cranmer's Bible," from a preface to 
the second edition (1540) written by the arch- 
bishop. It may owe its origin mainly to a reac- 
tion of the clergy against the Matthew Bible, 
whose true content they had discovered. Yet it 
was undertaken by Coverdale at Cromwell's re- 
quest. There was some episcopal supervision in 
the fourth and sixth of the seven editions which 
were published, and the title page refers the 
work to "dyverse excellent learned men." Who 
these were is unknown, unless the reference is 
to those responsible for the various earlier trans- 
lations and other sources used in the revision. 
For, in particular, use was made of Munster's 
Latin Old Testament (1534-35) the Vulgate, 
and especially in the 1540 edition, of Erasmus' 
Latin New Testament and the Complutensian 



Polyglot. 12 As the first and, in fact, the only 
formally "authorized" English Bible, it is of 
special significance in our story. The 1540 and 
subsequent editions carried on the title page the 
explicit words: "This is the Byble apoynted to 
the use of the churches." 13 

Except for its larger size, the Great Bible 
does not differ much in format from previous 
revisions. However, the reactions against con- 
troversial prologues and marginalia now re- 
sulted in the removal of all such adjuncts to the 
text. Coverdale himself had projected explana- 
tory notes for the first edition and was very 
much disappointed, as he wrote to Cromwell, 
that "the darck places of the text (vpon the 
which I haue allwaye set a hande) shulde so 
passe vndeclared." 14 The pointing hands ac- 
tually appeared in the margins of the first three 
editions, but the notes were never made. There 
was no dedication, but a special feature serving 
the same purpose was an elaborate title page 
woodcut, often wrongly attributed to Holbein, 15 
which shows King Henry VIII receiving and dis- 
tributing the "Wore! of God" through his minis- 
ters Cranmer and Cromwell to the people amid 
their shouts of Vivat Rex and "God save the 
King," Private interpretation of the Bible was 
still feared, however, as indicated by statements 
in the preface and in royal proclamations of 
1541 and later. The reference of difficulties to 
men of higher judgment in the Scriptures was 
recommended, and disputations were forbidden, 
especially in taverns and alehouses. The people 
now had a certain access to the Bible in the 
church and they were making the most of it; the 
authorities thought they were making too much 
of it. 

Beginning about this time, however, and ex- 
tending to the end of the reign of Henry VIII, a 
Catholic reaction set in which effectively halted 
the publication of the Bible in England for 
some years. The year 1540 saw the execution of 
Cromwell and the burning of both Protestants 
and papists for heresy. In 1543 restrictions were 
placed upon the reading of the Bible, and in 

12 A Hebrew-Greek-Latin edition of the Bible (Latin- 
Greek in the New Testament) published in four volumes 
at Complutum (Alcali de Henares), Spain by Cardinal 
Ximenes in 1522-26. 

18 The original (1539) title page read: "The Byble in 
Englyshe, that is to saye the content of all the holy 
scrypture, bothe of ye olde and newe testament, truly 
translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke 
textes, by ye dylygent studye of dyverse excellent learned 
men, expert in the forsayde tonges. Prynted by Kychard 
Grafton and Edward Whitchurch. Cum privilegio ad 
imprimendum solum. 1539." 

n Pollard, op. at , p. 245. 

* s This is the conclusion of H. R. Willoughby's careful 
investigation as recorded in a quatrocentennial publica- 
tion, The First Authorized English Bible and the 
Cranmer Preface (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

1546 a general burning of Bibles commenced. 
The authorized Great Bible alone was allowed, 
and its reading was limited to the upper classes. 
Although the brief reign of Edward VI afforded 
the Protestant forces some opportunity for re- 
covery and advance, and the restrictions on the 
Bible were removed, the intemperate form of 
some of the Protestant iconoclasm of the period, 
when added to the previous Cromwellian "ter- 
ror," made inevitable the continuation of reac- 
tion upon the accession of Mary Tudor in 1553. 
The situation was again reversed. A severe 
Catholic persecution ensued, which resulted in 
some three hundred martyrs, including men 
like Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. Many, 
among them Coverdale, took refuge on the 
Continent, and not a few gathered in Geneva, 
where they found a sympathetic welcome. 
Among these refugees the next great contribu- 
tion to the promulgation of the Scriptures in 
English was made in the preparation and publi- 
cation of the so-called "Geneva Bible." 

X. The Geneva Bible 

The purpose and character of the new 
Geneva revision reflect this geographically con- 
centrated Protestantism. Calvin, Knox, Beza, 
and for a time Coverdale were in touch with 
the work. Important contacts were probably 
made with a group of scholars revising the 
French Bible of Olivdtan. 16 

Although no names appear on the New Testa- 
ment, %vhich was published in 1557, the work 
is mainly credited to William Whittingham, a 
brother-in-law of Calvin, who was an able 
scholar and the successor of John Knox as min- 
ister to the English congregation at Geneva. 
The Old Testament was done by a group in- 
cluding Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson, and 
others of uncertain identity. 

Notwithstanding the valuable contribution 
of those who participated, the result was defi- 
nitely a revision of previous work. In the New 
Testament, Tyndale's 1534 edition was the chief 
basis, with important suggestions from Beza's 
Latin text and commentary of 1556. 17 The Old 
Testament consisted of a revision of the Great 
Bible by a careful reference to the Hebrew and 
with the guidance of the Latin editions of 
Pagninus, Mtinster, and Leo Juda, The Old 
Testament was published together with a care- 
ful revision of the New Testament in 1560, the 

* 6 So David Baiches, The King James Version of the 
English Bible (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1941). He shows that it was the model for a table on 
Hebrew names and on "the chief and principal matteis 
of the whole Bible." 

* 7 B. F. Westcott, A General View of the History vf 
the English Bible (3d ed., rev. W. A Wright; London: 
Macmillan & Co., 1905), has shown that in I John :it 
least two thirds of the new renderings are from Be/,a. 



first edition of the complete Geneva Bible, or, 
as it is sometimes called from the translation in 
Gen. 3:7, the "Breeches Bible." 18 The title page 
of the 1560 Bible read: "The Bible and Holy 
Scriptures conteyned in the Olde and Newe 
Testament. Translated according to the Ebrue 
and Greke, and conferred with the best transla- 
tions in divers languages. With most profitable 
annotations vpon all the hard places, and other 
things of great importance as may appeare in 
the Epistle to the Reader. At Geneva. Printed 
by Rouland Hall. M.D.LX." To Queen Eliza- 
beth, who had succeeded to the throne in 1558 
and had re-established the Church of England, 
the Geneva Bible was optimistically dedicated, 
along with some pious exhortation on building 
the church and putting all papists to the sword. 

The new revision was the most scholarly and 
accurate English Bible so far produced, and 
represented the most creative development since 
Tyndale. The revisers themselves in their pref- 
ace modestly explain how "in respect of this 
ripe age and cleare light which God had now 
revetted, the translations required greatly to be 
perused and reformed," and give a strong Prot- 
estant statement of the importance of an Eng- 
lish Bible for the common man. The under- 
standing of the text was furthered by a profuse 
marginal commentary, again of strongly Protes- 
tant, even sometimes Calvinistic, tenor, "I have 
endevered so to profitt all therby," ran the 
preface of the 1557 New Testament, "that both 
the learned and others might be holpen. . . ." 

The marginal notes contributed greatly to 
the popularity of the version among Protestants 
in general. Royalty and clergy, however, and 
especially Roman Catholic circles, were dis- 
turbed by certain of the interpretations. A note 
on Exod. 1:19 approving of the midwives* lying 
to Pharaoh was considered a reflection on royal 
prerogatives. The Pope naturally objected to 
being identified with "the angel of the bottom- 
less pit" (Rev. 9:11), as "Antichrist the Pope, 
king of hypocrites and Satan's ambassadour." 
But not all notes were polemic, and their ap- 
parent bias can rarely be said to extend into the 
text itself. Alternative translations, exposition, 
and explanations of various kinds all made up 
the "most profitable annotations vpon all the 
hard places." 

Several other novel features contributed to 
the usefulness and popularity of this Bible. 
Roman type was used for the first time. Division 
of the chapters into verses first appeared in 
English and became the basis of all versification 
in later English Bibles. The Hebrew Old Testa- 
ment had long been divided (by Jewish schol- 
ars, the Masoretes) into sections or paragraphs 

18 The term "breeches" had occurred here, however, 
in Wycliffe and in Caxton's Golden Legende. 


but these were supplanted in the Compluten- 
sian Polyglot of 1522-26 by the Vulgate chapter 
division, probably devised by Stephen Langton 
in the thirteenth century for Old and New 
Testaments. This appeared in all English Bibles. 
The versification of Old Testament and Apoc- 
rypha, originating with the Masoretes, ap- 
peared in Pagninus' Latin of 1528, and was 
taken over by the Geneva version in substan- 
tially the same form in which it is given in a 
later (1556-57) edition. The New Testament 
versification was made by Robert Estienne for 
his Greek edition of 1551, from which it was 
probably incorporated into the Geneva via 
Beza's Latin of 1556. The practice of italicizing 
English words not represented in the original 
text was introduced from Pagninus and Beza, 
a practice which was to continue down through 
the Revised Version. The convenient quarto size 
and consequently cheaper price also contributed 
to its popularity; and besides the marginal com- 
mentary, a variety of "helps," including maps, 
tables, woodcuts, chapter summaries, running 
titles, and, after 1579, a Calvinistic catechism, 
added to its usefulness. 

As a result of these various features and the 
superior and attractive character of the version 
itself, the Geneva Bible enjoyed an immediate 
and widespread reception and usage. It soon 
became the household Bible of English-speaking 
Protestantism and so remained for nearly a 
century. It was the Bible of Shakespeare, of 
John Bunyan, of Cromwell's army, of the Puri- 
tan pilgrims, and of King James himself. It 
even colors a scripture quotation in the preface 
of the King James Version 1 About 180 editions 
of various sorts, 96 complete, were published, 8 
of them appearing after the publication of the 
King James Version in 1611. Although never 
officially endorsed, it exerted a fundamental 
influence upon its "authorized" successors. 

XI. The Second Authorized Bible: The Bishops? 
Bible of 156B 

The popularity and superiority of the Geneva 
Bible were irksome to the church and state. 
Elizabeth's policy of toleration also had made it 
possible for all previous versions to circulate, 
and the Great Bible was unable to maintain a 
position commensurate with its official preroga- 
tive. An attempt was made, therefore, to pro- 
duce a revision which might supplant the Ge- 
neva and other competing editions. Archbishop 
Parker, who became the leader of the under- 
taking, really a revival of Cranmer's project, 
formed a committee of revisers in 1564; 1$> and 

* A fairly accurate, although not quite certain or com- 
plete, list has been compiled from an account by Parker 
and from the revisers' initials affixed to the various parts 
of the work. A reconstruction is given by Pollard, op. dt,, 
pp. 30-81, and in some handbooks. 


' version 

since the majority were bishops, the new versi 
was naturally called "The Bishops' Bible." 

After about four years of effort by the mem- 
bers of the committee to whom the work had 
been parceled out, the first edition was pub- 
lished in 1568 in a very large and impressive 
folio. The title was simply "The holie Bible 
conteyning the olde Testament and the newe." 
Although there was no dedication, a woodcut 
portrait of Queen Elizabeth appeared on the 
title page. The Cranmer preface to the Great 
Bible was reproduced and another long one 
added by Parker. Extensive external equipment 
included tables of content, a chronology, gene- 
alogies, maps, pictures, an almanac, numerous 
decorative woodcuts, two engravings, and margi- 
nal annotations. The customary black-letter 
type was employed, but Roman type served the 
function of the italics which had been used in 
the Geneva Bible. 

Officially the revision was to be based on the 
Great Bible and there was to be only such neces- 
sary variation from it as was demanded by the 
Hebrew or Greek. This purpose is stated in a 
set of "Observacions respected of the Transla- 
tors/' which also enjoined the use of the Latin 
of Pagninus and Miinster as guides. It was sug- 
gested too that unedifying text like genealogies 
should be marked for possible omission in 
public reading, that "all such wordes as sound- 
eth in the Olde Translacion to any offence of 
Lightnes or obscenitie be expressed with more 
convenient termes and phrases," and that no 
"determination in places of controversie" or 
"bitter notis vppon any text" be included. 20 The 
real result was a revision of very uneven charac- 
ter, due to the exercise of individual freedom 
by the translators without adequate editorial 
supervision of the whole work. While some sec- 
tions are therefore close to the Great Bible, 
especially in the Old Testament and Apoc- 
rypha, others depart freely from it. In some of 
these the inEuence of the Geneva Bible is ap- 
parent; even many of its marginalia were taken 
over. John Eadie * x found that out of fifty notes 
in I Corinthians ail but seven were from the 
Geneva. In Galatians twenty-two notes, all but 
two alternative translations, are used. The notes 
in general are explanatory or historical with 
some alternative renderings and some exhorta- 
tion. The most famous is doubtless that on the 
gold of Ophir in Ps. 45:9; "Ophir is thought to 
be the Islande in the west coast, of late founde 
by Christopher Columbo: from whence at this 
day is brought most fine golde." The preface 
attributes the verse division to the Pagninus 
Bible. But the version was in general unpro- 

Pollard, op. dt., pp. 297-98, 

21 The English Bible (London: Macmillan & Co., 

gressive, and ignored many improvements in 
the Geneva text. Nor was the phraseology as 
simple and direct as in the latter, although 
Parker had been asked to avoid "ink horn 

In spite of its defects, the Bishops' Bible be- 
came the second "authorized" English version, 
for, although never so officially designated by the 
queen, it was endorsed by a convocation which 
in 1571 ordered its possession and use by every 
bishop and archbishop. While this injunction 
does not seem generally to have been obeyed, 
the version eventually displaced the Great Bible 
as the one "appoynted to be read in the 
Churches," and from 1577 on "as set forth by 
authoritie." As has been already intimated, 
however, it failed to oust the Psalter of the 
Great Bible. The second edition of 1572 gave 
both in parallel columns, the preface rather 
timidly inviting the reader to compare the two. 
But in all subsequent printings except one, the 
Psalter of the Great Bible alone was retainedl 

Although the Bishops* Bible was thus ecclesi- 
astically acceptable, and about twenty editions 
of it were printed over the period from 1568 to 
1606, it failed to replace the Geneva version 
in popular esteem and usage. The second edi- 
tion served, however, as the official basis of the 
revision which was destined to do so, and in 
this way a number of readings which originated 
with the Bishops' Bible were perpetuated. 

XII. The First Roman Catholic Bible in English 

Meanwhile, another influential achievement 
occurred in the form of a Roman Catholic 
Bible in English. Back of this startling venture 
were Catholic refugees from England led by 
William Cardinal Allen, president and founder 
of the English college at Douai, France, then 
temporarily removed to Reims. The reasons for 
such a translation were given by Allen as Protes- 
tant distortion of the meaning of the text and 
the fact that Catholic preachers were at a dis- 
advantage in quoting the Bible in English with- 
out a version of their own. Approval of lay use 
of the Bible was definitely not intended. In 
fact, the undertaking was not at first officially 
sanctioned by the church at all, but was doubt- 
less a part of the Jesuit program of recapturing 
England for Catholicism. 

The translation was made chiefly by Gregory 
Martin, and revised by Allen, both Oxford men. 
Although completed by 1582, only the New 
Testament was then published at Reims, the 
Old Testament being delayed until 1609-10 by 
lack of funds. By this time the college had 
moved back to Douai, and the version is there- 
fore known as the Douay or Reims-Douay Bible. 
A complete Bible was not issued until 1633-55 
at Rouen. Roman type and marginal versifica- 



tion are used, and the text is paragraphed, but 
not by verses as in the Bishops' and Geneva 
Bibles. Annotations by Allen in the form of 
marginalia and notes at the ends of chapters 
rival the Geneva in profuseness and exceed it in 
polemic nature. The Protestant "hereticks" 
and the Genevan commentators in particular 
are constantly, though not lovingly, in mind. 
The note on Matt. 6:24, for example, gives as 
the first interpretation of "two masters": "Two 
religions, God and Baal, Christ and Calvin, 
Masse and Communion, the Catholike Church 
and Heretical Conventicles." 

The title page of the version proclaims it to 
be translated out of the "authentical Latin/' 
referring, of course, to the Vulgate. The preface 
was to a certain extent right in claiming that 
this preserved a less corrupt text than the late 
Greek which lay behind the English translations 
to this time. The reading in Luke 2:14 ("and 
in earth peace to men of good will") and the 
omission of the doxology in Matt. 6:13 are con- 
spicuous examples (see tables on pp. 102-3) . 
Here and elsewhere there is coincidence with 
the Wycliffite version, since it too was made 
from the Vulgate. As the title page suggests, the 
Greek, Hebrew, and "other editions in divers 
languages" were also consulted. This is espe- 
cially true in the New Testament, where even 
the influence of Geneva readings is apparent. 
But the version was often a slavishly literalistic 
rendering, at times merely a transliteration, of 
the Latin. To be understood it needed itself to 
be translated in such passages as "Give us today 
our supersubstantial bread" (Matt. 6:11), or, 
"But he exinanited himself* (Phil. 2:7) . 

The version was not without improvements, 
especially in its treatment of the Greek article, 
and it exerted a considerable influence upon the 
King James revision, in which many of its 
Latinisms were adopted. Its chief significance 
lay of course in Roman Catholic circles, where 
it was not only the first translation into Eng- 
lish, but was eventually accorded official recogni- 
tion and became the basis of all subsequent 

XIII. The King James Version of 1611 

The climax and culmination of these early 
efforts in translation and revision was reached 
in the King James Version of 1611. 

A number of factors combined to set the stage 
for the undertaking. The long reign of Eliza- 
beth (15584603) , with its partial settlement of 
the Protestant-Catholic controversy and defeat 
of the Spanish Armada (1588), ushered in a 
period of comparative peace and quiet that 
became notable for intellectual and literary 
effort. When James I came to the throne in 
1603, he brought with him pronounced Protes- 

tant views and a personal interest in biblical 
study and translation. The Bishops' Bible had 
failed to displace the Geneva, and the Puritans 
were objecting, among other things, to the 
"authorized" versions. It was to hear their com- 
plaints that James called the Hampton Court 
Conference of 1604, which became the immedi- 
ate occasion for the new revision. For when 
the Puritans gained little in other matters, the 
criticism of the English Bibles was broached, 
and John Reynolds, Puritan president of 
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, moved that 
there might be a new translation of the Bible. 
Although there was no immediate action on this 
petition, the idea appealed to the king, and as 
the preface to the version itself puts it, "yet 
even hereupon did his Maiestie beginne to 
bethinke himself of the good that might ensue 
by a new translation, and presently after gave 
order for this translation which is now pre- 
sented unto thee." Whatever his motives, King 
James supported the project so vigorously that 
by July, 1604, a translation committee of fifty 
"learned men" and a list of rules of procedure 
had been provided. 23 

Although our knowledge of the earliest pe- 
riod of the work is vague, the purposes of the 
revision may be learned from the rules of pro- 
cedure and from the preface. The latter, a long 
and learned document by one of the revisers, 
Miles Smith, is unfortunately omitted from the 
version as usually printed. 28 Its presence would 
clear up many misunderstandings about the 
character and intent of the revision. The reader 
would learn that an English Bible still needed 
justification and that strong opposition was ex- 
pected to any revision of the current version: 

Many mens mouths haue bene open a good 
while (and yet are not stopped) with speeches 
about the Translation so long in hand . . . : and aske 
what may be the reason, what the necessitie of the 

They would learn that the new version was 
a scholarly revision of previous work with a 
modest hope of improvement and no thought of 

Truly (good Christian Reader) wee neuer thought 
from the beginning, that we should neede to make 
a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a 
good one, . . . but to make a good one better, or 
out of many good ones, one principall good one, not 

aa About fifty of the group are known. But our fullest 
list has forty-seven names. It may be found in Pollard, 
op. cit. t pp. 49-53; Butterworth, op. cit., pp. 208-9. A 
full statement of the rules of procedure may be found in 
Pollard, pp. 53-55, and in various handbooks 

* a It is reproduced in Pollard, op. tit., pp 340-77. E. 
J. Goodspeed has published it with a facsimile and intro- 
duction: The Translators to the Reader (Chicago: Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1935). 



justly to be excepted against; that hath bene our 
indeauour, that our marke. ... So, if we building 
vpon their foundation that went before vs, and be- 
ing holpen by their labours, doe endeuour to make 
that better which they left so good; no man, we 
are sure, hath cause to mislike vs; they, we per- 
swade our selues, if they were aliue, would thanke vs. 

The rules of procedure more specifically in- 
dicated that the Bishops' Bible was to be fol- 
lowed and "as little altered as the Truth of the 
original will permit"; that certain other transla- 
tions should be used where they agreed better 
with the text, viz., "Tindoll's, Matthew's, Cover- 
dale's, Whitchurch's [the Great Bible, so named 
from a printer], Geneva"; that "the old Ecclesi- 
astical words [were] to be kept," and that no 
marginal notes were to be used except for neces- 
sary explanation of the Hebrew or Greek, Most 
of the remaining fifteen rules dealt with method 
of procedure, providing that the committee be 
divided into six companies operating two each 
at Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster on 
allotted sections of the text, that they should 
confer on the results, and that a special com- 
mittee should make a final review of the work. 
It is questionable whether the last two of these 
provisions were adequately carried out. Al- 
though its beginning "was unaccountably delayed 
for about four years, the revision was completed 
within three years and ready for publication by 

The historic edition which issued from the 
press of Robert Barker was a large folio volume 
very similar to the Bishops' Bible in appearance. 
The type and the chapter and verse division 
were essentially the same. Running titles and 
prefatory chapter summaries were included, 
many reflecting the influence of the Geneva 
Bible. There were several tables and charts. 
The Apocrypha were given without any dis- 
tinguishing comments. A flattering dedication 
to King James was naturally a feature, and an 
elaborate engraved title page described the 
version as "The Holy Bible, Conteyning the 
Old Testament and the New: Newly Translated 
out of the Originall tongues; & with the former 
Translations diligently compared and revised, 
by his Maiesties speciall Commandement. Ap- 
pointed to be read in Churches." 

A second edition partly printed in the same 
year and published in 1613 has caused some 
confusion as to priority because of the use of 
leaves of the earlier edition in copies of the 
later. The editions differed in over four hun- 
dred readings and in other features. (They are 
sometimes called the "He Bible" and "She 
Bible" from their respective renderings of the 
reference in Ruth 3:15.) Although the King 
James Version has come to be known as the 

authorized version, no official action of authori- 
zation is known to exist. Either the record of 
such an act was destroyed by fire or, as with the 
Bishops' Bible, the official sponsorship was con- 
sidered sufficient recognition. The King James 
Bible therefore became the third "authorized" 
English Bible. 

Although officially a revision of the Bishops' 
Bible, especially of the second edition of 1572, 
the King James Version derived comparatively 
little from that except as it contained the cumu- 
lative result of previous work. The other trans- 
lations mentioned in the rules, especially the 
Tyndale and Geneva versions, contributed much 
more, and among unnamed sources the con- 
tributions of the Reims New Testament, 
Luther's German Bible, and various Latin trans- 
lations such as Pagninus, Miimter, Tremellius- 
Junius, and Beza are very apparent. In gen- 
eral, however, the total result is still basically 
the inherited Tyndale-Coverdale text. The Ge- 
neva was of next greatest influence. In the 
Lord's Prayer the two are identical except for 
two minor words. 2 * The revisers, of course, 
added their own improvements, centering par- 
ticularly in the choice of words, enrichment of 
vocabulary, and the enhancement of the rhyth- 
mic quality of the text. While this contribution 
varied greatly from place to place, the result 
was a version generally superior to its predeces- 
sors in accuracy of translation and refinement 
of literary style. 

But the revision had also its weaknesses, sev- 
eral of them a part of its inheritance. The un- 
derlying text was still far from satisfactory. 
There was no standard edition of the Hebrew 
Masoretic text of the Old Testament. In the 
New Testament the late and corrupt text of 
Erasmus as popularized and slightly modified 
by Stephanus and Beza was necessarily used, 
since nothing better was available. The variety 
introduced into the rendering of the same words 
was often unnecessary and misleading, especially 
when extended to proper names and to iden- 
tical passages in the Synoptic Gospels and else- 
where, where literary relationships were thus 
obscured. 25 Conversely, certain real distinctions 
were not observed, a famous example being the 
inherited translation in John 10:16 of two 
different Greek words as "fold/' where the sec- 
ond should have been "flock," apparently, as in 

2 * A good treatment of the varied literary relationship 
will be found in Butterworth, op. dt. In the latter part 
of the Old Testament he found that "often as much as 
half the text is taken word for word from the Geneva 
Bible" (p 165). 

26 Cf., e.g, Isa. 35:10 and 51:11; Matt. 26:41 and 
Mark 14:38; etc. The bewildering variety in proper 
names still remains, e.g , Elijah and Ehas; Jeremiah, 
Jeremias, and Jeremy; Judas, Judah, and Jude; Luke 
and Lucas; etc. 



the Vulgate, in the interests of one church. No 
systematic representation of measurements is 
used, several of differing quantity being ren- 
dered simply as "measure." Coinage is generally 
resolved into British equivalents, but again, 
indefinite terms such as "pieces of silver" (Luke 
15:8) or "piece of money" (Matt. 17:27) are 
often used where the original is definite. 
"Lamp" and "lampstand" to cite another ex- 
ample of modernization had long been trans- 
lated as "candle" and "candlestick." Failure to 
give proper recognition to certain Greek usages 
is attributable to the still unsatisfactory knowl- 
edge of the original languages. Other defects 
included obscurities, archaisms, solecisms in the 
English, failure to recognize and represent all 
Hebrew poetical forms, and, especially in the 
earlier editions, many printing errors. A famous 
misprint still remaining in the version is "at" 
for "out" in "strain at a gnat" (Matt. 23:24) . 
Obscure or archaic expressions abound, e.g., 
"prevent" for "go before"; "to wit" for "to 
know"; "damnation" for "judgment"; "clean- 
ness of teeth" for "famine" (a Hebraism) ; "car- 
riage" for "baggage"; etc. Lists of dubious read- 
ings of all sorts may be found in Philip Schaff, 
A Companion to the Greek Testament and the 
English Version (New York: Harper & Bros., 
1883), and elsewhere. 

But no one reads the King James Version in 
its original form. Many archaisms, misspellings 
and other errors were corrected in subsequent 
editions. 26 Criticism of the version, as antici- 
pated, was severe, and led to several revisions. 
That of 1629 first omitted the Apocrypha. (The 
fortunes of the Apocrypha would require too 
much space to relate here. An ordinance of 
1615 threatened a year's imprisonment to 
printers who omitted them. But after sporadic 
omission for two centuries, they were generally 
dropped as of supposedly inferior value and no 
part of the original i.e., Hebrew canon.) 
The most extensive revisions were made by 
Thomas Paris at Cambridge in 1762 and by 
Benjamin Blayney at Oxford in 1769. The latter 
became the standard form, and after this few 
changes were made. The original edition, in 
spite of the stricture on marginalia, had in- 
cluded about 9,000 cross references and some 
8,000 other notations, mostly the literal Hebrew 
and Greek, but some explanatory, as the preface 
indicated and sought to justify. The revisions 
added to this number constantly, so that by the 

26 Later editions often added their own errors, however, 
and several have been nicknamed after some particular 
slip. A list of such "Queer and Interesting Bibles" may 
be seen in Laura H. Wild, The Romance of the English 
Bible (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), Ap- 
pendix II. All of the changes from the 1611 edition are 
noted in The Cambridge Paragraph Bible (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1873). 


time of the Blayney edition the notes, increased 
especially by an indiscriminate multiplication of 
cross references, totaled about 65,000. Arch- 
bishop Ussher's chronology was added in Lloyd's 
1701 edition. The various editions, of which 
about 50 were published by 1640, differed in 
size and format, and as early as 1612 both a 
folio and quarto were issued in Roman type. 

With the gradual improvement of the version 
the clamor against it died down to a great ex- 
tent. Officially it replaced the Bishops' Bible, 
and after fifty years or so the Geneva Bible, in 
popular use. Political strife served also to dis- 
tract attention from biblical revision for some 
time. The result was that the King James Bible 
remained for two and a half centuries the Bible 
of English-speaking Protestantism and exerted a 
wide and lasting influence not only in religion 
but also in literature and every other area of 
contemporary culture. 27 

The version also became widely recognized 
for its own intrinsic literary value, and many 
came to regard it as the greatest monument of 
English prose. A good part of its appeal is at- 
tributable to the literary genius exemplified in 
the original writings, and to the reproduction 
of much of the flavor of the vivid and concrete 
word-picture character of Semitic expression, 
with its striking imagery, metaphors, personifica- 
tions, proverbs, parables, etc. These have often 
become a part of our speech, as in terminology 
like "lick the dust," "skin of his teeth," "salt of 
the earth." And long familiarity fails to dull 
the beauty of such natural imagery as is found 
in Ps. 23, or the human appeal of a parable like 
that of the prodigal son. 28 

XIV. The Revised Version 

But great progress was made after 1611, espe- 
cially in the nineteenth century, both in the dis- 
covery and publication of better Hebrew and 
Greek texts and in fields such as archaeology, 
linguistics, comparative religion, etc., with the 
result that new light was thrown upon the 
understanding of the biblical text and its proper 
translation. Discovery or first real use of such 
early manuscripts as Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, 
Beza, and Sinaiticus had marked influence. The 

27 For its pervasive influence in literature see the dis- 
cussion and bibliographies in Margaret B. Crook, ed., 
The Bible and Its Literary Associations (New York: 
Abingdon Press, 1937); A. S. Cook, Biblical Quotations 
in Old English Prose Writers (New York: The Macmillan 
Co., 1898); The Bible and English Prose Style (Boston: 
D. C. Heath & Co., 1892). 

* 8 Many good treatments of this aspect of the subject 
exist; e.g, Josiah H. Penniman, A Book About the 
English Bible (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1919); 
C. A. Dinsmore, The English Bible as Literature (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931); W. O. Sypnerd, The Litera 
ture of the English Bible (New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1938), 


steady accumulation oi thousands o variant 
readings in the New Testament, many of which 
were obviously older and better, led eventually 
to the first total disregard of the "received" text 
by Karl Lachmann in 1831. Great advance was 
made by the work of Konstantin von Tischen- 
dorf, Samuel Tregelles, and others, and after 
nearly thirty years of labor, Westcott and Hort 
in 1881 published a text of the fourth century 
or earlier. The Old Testament text had been 
vocalized and standardized by the seventh or 
eighth century AD. in what was not a truly 
critical form A tenth-century copy of it by Ben 
Asher became the prevalent text and mainly 
underlies the English and other translation to 
this time as well as to the present. But variation 
in text was publicized in the earlier period 
through the polyglots, which gave the Latin, 
Greek, Syriac, Aramaic, and other versions, and 
through such editions as those of Benjamin 
Kennicott (Oxford, 1776-1780) and J. B. de 
Rossi (Parma, 1784-88) , 29 Advance in the other 
areas mentioned frequently threw doubt upon 
the accuracy of the translation. The lapse of 
time had rendered many moie woids and ex- 
pressions obsolete or generally unintelligible. 
Bishop Robert Lowth's lectures on Hebrew 
poetry in the middle eighteenth century first 
revealed the true literary character of much of 
the biblical text. The decipherment of hiero- 
glyphic and cuneiform writing in the first half 
of the nineteenth century had made possible for 
the first time the reading of the ancient records 
of Medes, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and 
Egyptians, with consequent illumination of He- 
brew history and literature. 

The effect of these influences appeared in 
renewed agitation for a revision of the King 
James Version and in numerous attempts on 
the part of private individuals and groups to 
anticipate such an undertaking by issuing new 
translations and revisions of their own. From 
about the middle of the eighteenth century 
these became increasingly numerous, and every 
sort of experiment was tried with style and 
format. One scholar estimates that nearly 100 
such editions, mostly of the New Testament, 
were produced in the 259 years between 1611 
and the beginning of work on the Revised 
Version, over half of them in the nineteenth 
century. 50 These ventures served to call atten- 
tion to such defects in the current Bible as have 
been already briefly indicated, and some of 
them were of real merit as illustrative of the 
possibilities involved in a new revision. Among 
the most interesting and valuable are the fol- 

20 See p. 56. 

80 E. J. Goodspeed, The Making of the English New 
Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1925} 
p. 78. " 


lowing (New Testament and British, unless 
otherwise indicated) : W. Mace (1729) , William 
Whiston (1745), John Wesley (1755), Philip 
Doddridge (1765), Edward Harwood (1768), 
William Newcome (1796), Anthony Purver 
(1764) , Gilbert Wakefield (1789-91) , Nathaniel 
Scarlett (1798), Charles Thomson (a transla- 
tion of the Greek Bible, Philadelphia, 1808), 
Noah Webster (New Haven, 1833) , Granville 
Penn (1836-37), Asahel Kendrick (1842), 
Alford, Moberly, Humphrey, Ellicott and Bar- 
row (Gospel of John and Pauline Epistles, 
1857-61) , Thomas J, Conant (New Testament 
and parts of the Old Testament, editions of the 
American Bible Union, 1860-71), G. R. Noyes 
(Boston, 1869), Henry Alford (1870), Julia 
Smith (Bible, Hartford, 1876). The Bible of 
Thomson, who was secretary of the Continental 
Congress, was the first complete English trans- 
lation by an American. 

Scholars also published lists of the deficiencies 
in the Authorized Version and sought to esti- 
mate the probable nature and amount of 
revision that would be necessary. While defend- 
ers of the current version were not lacking, and 
efforts to find official support for revision failed 
in 1856, the tide of opinion could not be stayed 
much longer. 

The first official step was taken on February 
10, 1870, when at a meeting of the convocation 
ot Canterbury, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce of 
Winchester proposed the appointment of a 
committee to report on the desirability of a 
revision of the New Testament. This, as 
amended to include the Old Testament, was 
approved, and the committee named soon 
brought in a favorable report in the form of 
five resolutions which suggested the general 
purpose and procedure of the work. It is clear 
that the revision was considered to be mainly 
textual (including the margin) , that only neces- 
sary changes were to be adopted, and that the 
style of the King James Version was to be re- 
tained. Another committee was then authorized 
to proceed with more detailed plans for the 
project and its personnel. Nucleus sections for 
Old and New Testament were quickly formed, 
a list of rules of procedure for guidance was 
drawn up, and by June 22, 1870, the work on 
the New Testament had got under way with an 
initial meeting at Westminster Abbey. 

The men who undertook the task of revision 
constituted an able and distinguished group, 81 

For a list o the members see H. Wheeler Robinson, 
The Bible in Its Ancient and English Versions (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1940), pp. 243-45. The twenty-four to 
twenty-eight members who were active in the ensuing ten 
years included for the Old Testament group T. K. 
Cheyne, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, F. Field, C. D. 
Ginsburg, J. McGill, A. H. Sayce, R. Payne Smith, W. 
Wright; and for the New Testament, H. Alford, J. 


and included representatives of various denom- 
inations other than the Anglican, Co-operation 
with American "divines" was also invited from 
the beginning, and an American group of 
about nineteen active members was formed un- 
der the leadership of Philip Schaff, arrange- 
ments being made for collaboration with the 
British. 82 The rules of procedure adopted added 
certain specifications to the original resolutions. 
The text was to be gone over twice, decisions in 
doubtful places depending upon a majority in 
the preliminary revision and by a two-thirds 
vote in the second. Rejected readings of the 
King James Version were to be placed in the 
margin; the headings of chapters and pages, 
paragraphing, italics, and punctuation were to 
be revised; and reference was to be made when 
desirable "to Divines, Scholars and Literary 
Men, whether at home or abroad, for their 

The work continued for ten and a half years 
on the New Testament and about fourteen on 
the Old. A much needed revision of the Apoc- 
rypha was also made. The expenses were borne 
by the university presses of Cambridge and Ox- 
ford, the publishers and copyright owners; but 
the revisers themselves received no remunera- 

The New Testament was published on May 
17, 1881, and met with an enthusiastic initial 
reception. People stood in line for copies. A 
million copies had been ordered in advance, 
and some three million were sold in England 
and the United States within the first year. The 
book was first put on sale in the United States 
on May 20, and two days later two Chicago 
newspapers printed the complete text for their 
readers. The Old Testament appeared, with 
less demonstration, as a part of the whole Bible 
on May 19, 1885. The Apocrypha were pub- 
lished in 1895. 

Purchasers found themselves in possession of 
a text in which the number of changes far ex- 
ceeded all previous estimates. Of some 180,000 
words in the New Testament, for example, 
alterations amounted to an estimated 30,000, 
or an average of four and a half per verse. 
While the revisers did attempt to retain the 
style and flavor of the King James Version, 
they did not hesitate to remove obscurities, 
archaisms, and inconsistencies in the text. Wide 
variation was due to the increased accuracy of 

Angus, J. Eadie, C. J. Ellicott (chairman), F. J. A. Hort, 
B. H. Kennedy, J. B. Lightfoot, W. Milligan, W. F. 
Moulton, R. Scott, R. C. Trench, B. F. Westcott. 

82 The American committee included T. J. Conant, 
W. H. Green, C. M. Mead, Josiah Strong, Ezra Abbott, 
Timothy Dwight, J. Hadley, A. C. Kendrick, M. B. 
Riddle, J. H. Thayer, and T. D. Woolsey. M. B. Riddle 
published The Story of the Revised American Standard 
Version (Philadelphia: Sunday School Times Co., 1908). 

the underlying text which they used, especially 
in the New Testament. Hort persuasively urged 
upon the committee the text upon which he 
and Westcott had labored so many years, and 
it exerted a great influence, though far from 
being consistently followed. Many of its rejected 
readings, however, were placed in the margin. 

The English was given in two columns, im- 
proved by division into sense paragraphs and 
with verse numbers in the margin. Poetry was 
better represented; italics were reduced in num- 
ber and systematized. Chapter summaries and 
headings were omitted entirely. At first the 
marginal cross references were also dropped, but 
popular demand led to their restoration in 1898 
and in subsequent editions. The usual marginal 
notes appeared, the textual variants and alterna- 
tive renderings occupying a much larger space. 
The enormous amount of new evidence which 
could be brought to bear upon the problems of 
translation made the marginalia of value to the 
student interested in accuracy and comprehen- 
sion. The better text was often represented in 
the margin. A list of about three hundred read- 
ings preferred by the American Committee, but 
not adopted by the English revisers, was given 
in an appendix. 

It was not long, however, before the number 
and character of the changes in the revision 
provoked a strong reaction. The work had al- 
ready been under attack before publication, but 
now criticism became more specific as well as 
voluble. Members of the revision committee 
itself joined in denouncing the results, as the 
merits and demerits of the version were argued. 
Charges of unnecessary departure from the 
familiar phraseology, undue literalism, elabo- 
rate overcorrection, destruction of beauty and 
rhythm, impoverishment of the English lan- 
guage, and the like, flew thick and fast. Prime 
Minister Gladstone spoke against its authoriza- 
tion, and it was coolly received by its sponsor, 
the convocation of Canterbury. Champions of 
the enterprise were numerous, however, and not 
a few felt that the revision did not depart 
sufficiently from the traditional text either in 
the choice of readings or in the modernization 
of the English. 

It is quite true that the revisers went beyond 
their expressed purposes. Charges of overliteral- 
ism and overconsistency could often be substan- 
tiated. The total effect was frequently to spoil 
a certain natural vigor and beauty without re- 
writing the translation in a really creative 
fashion. This resulted in an artificial product 
for the day in which it was made. Yet the vast 
number of improvements in accuracy, clarity, 
and consistency are undeniable, and much op- 
position to the revision must be attributed to 
traditional associations. Certain alterations in 



the text, such as the omission of the doxology 
at the end of the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:13), 
were very disconcerting to those unacquainted 
with the facts about textual study. Examples of 
greater accuracy and clarity are legion. Cf., e.g., 
II Cor. 8:1 KJV "We do you to wit." 

RV "We make known to you." 
Luke 3:23 KJV "And Jesus himself began to 

be about thirty years of age." 
RV "And Jesus himself, when he 

began to teach, was about 

thirty years old." 
Isa. 9:1 KJV ". . . and afterward did more 

grievously afflict her." 
RV ". . . in the latter time hath 

he made it glorious." 

In spite of opposition the Revised Version 
eventually became widely used, especially in 
church schools and for purposes of study, and 
particularly in the United States. It officially 
displaced the King James Version at Canterbury 
and Westminster. After a stipulated wait of 
fourteen years, an American edition was pub- 
lished on August 26, 1901, incorporating the 
readings of the American appendix in the text 
and making an equal number of other changes. 
In general, these show more progress away from 
traditional and archaic forms of expression, and 
they substitute American for British idiom 
where the two differ. The American committee 
also restored (revised) running headlines, in- 
cluded a new set of sensible marginal references, 
and further improved the use of italics and 
punctuation. 38 

The Revised Version, however, failed to dis- 
place the King James Version to a degree com- 
parable to that in which the latter had over- 
come rival versions. This was due to the defects 
which have been mentioned, to the disadvan- 
tage of copyright restrictions which made the 
revision more expensive to buy, and to the 
fact that it faced the formidable opposition of 
a version which had been hallowed by religious 
usage and literary associations for well over 
two centuries. To overcome the last circum- 
stance alone only a phenomenal production 
could have sufficed. The Revised Version was 
not such: it went too far to be acceptable as a 
mere revision of the King James Version; it did 
not go far enough to be accepted on its own 
merits as a new and modern translation. 

XV. The Modern Speech Versions 

The recognition of the defects in the Revised 
Version and the continuing increase of knowl- 

33 The title page read identically with the English 
except for the date, "Revised A.D. 1881-1885," and the 
following lines- "Newly Edited by the American Revision 
Committee, A.D 1901, Standard Edition. New York: 
Thomas Nelson & Sons." The text was copyrighted by the 


edge in the areas pertaining to translation led 
to renewed efforts to provide more satisfactory, 
and in particular, more modern, results. Several 
new manuscript discoveries, such as the Sinaitic 
Syriac, together with progress in textual study 
served further to discredit the traditional Greek 
text. In Egypt especially, at the turn of the cen- 
tury and in subsequent years, great numbers of 
papyrus documents were unearthed, which re- 
flected every aspect of the life of the people of 
the ancient world in which much of the Bible 
and particularly the New Testament was writ- 
ten. These discoveries were a special stimulus 
to translation activity, since the documents re- 
vealed that the New Testament was written in 
general in the ordinary, everyday Greek of the 
time and indicated the true or exact meaning 
of many of its words and idioms for the first 
time. The new knowledge was soon incorpo- 
rated in grammatical and lexical works, and 
modern speech translations began to appear, 
which not only sought to exploit the new in- 
formation on specific points, but tried also to 
exemplify in their English the fact that the New 
Testament books were originally written to be 
understood by ordinary folk and ought to be 
kept in the language of the people. This convic- 
tion was fortunately extended to cover the Old 
Testament too, where archaeological discoveries 
and study had also opened up new vistas for 
the understanding of the Hebrew text. 

Only a few of the outstanding versions pro- 
duced in this modern period can be mentioned. 
Ferrar Fenton published a Bible (1883-1900) in 
the modern English of Great Britain which en- 
joyed considerable popularity. A pioneering 
effort was the Four Gospels of F. A, Spencer, 
published in 1898. The rest of the New Testa- 
ment was translated in 1937. F. S. Ballentine 
first sought to employ American idiom in an 
1898 Bible, which in the preface he described 
as "a plainer Bible for plain people in plain 
American." From the same viewpoint, and con- 
sistently good, was the Twentieth Century New 
Testament published anonymously by a group 
of scholars in a tentative form in 1898-1901 and 
in a definitive edition in 1904. British idiom is 
represented in a New Testament translation 
made by R. F. Weymouth, a competent Greek 
scholar, from his own Resultant Greek Testa- 
ment, and issued posthumously in 1903. 
Couched in modern, dignified but often diffuse 
English, and furnished with an extensive appa- 
ratus of notes, it became especially popular in 
England, and a fourth edition revised by three 
English scholars was published in 1924. One of 
the most popular of the new versions has been 
that of James Moffatt, who translated the entire 
Bible into modern speech of free style. The 
New Testament (1913) , based on von Soden's 


text, was of greater value and vogue than the 
Old. The latter was issued in 1924, and a com- 
plete Bible in 1926. William G. Ballantine is- 
sued a translation in 1923 (rev. ed., 1934) based 
on the Nestle text and known as the Riverside 
New Testament. It is closer to the traditional 
English than most modern versions but has a 
number of independent readings of merit. A 
two-volume edition of the New Testament ably 
and rather conservatively translated by Helen 
Barrett Montgomery was issued to commemo- 
rate the one-hundredth anniversary of the 
American Baptist Publication Society in 1923- 
24, and is known as the Centenary New Testa- 
ment. Rivaling the Moffatt New Testament in 
value and popularity is the edition of Edgar J. 
Goodspeed. His is again a fairly free rendering 
and represents, as its subtitle indicates, An 
American Translation. The New Testament was 
published in 1923, a translation of the text of 
Westcott and Hort; and a revision of it by 
Goodspeed is in process. The Old Testament 
was likewise, but more conservatively, rendered 
into American idiom by a group of scholars 
under the leadership and editorship of J. M. P. 
Smith and published in 1927. 84 The complete 
Bible appeared in 1931, and a new translation 
of the Apocrypha prepared by Goodspeed was 
incorporated into an edition issued in 1939. 
Independent readings of merit often occur in 
other modern speech versions, such as Verkyl's 
New Testament (1945) and the Jehovah's Wit- 
nesses' edition of the New Testament (1950) . 

Besides using modern diction, these various 
editions generally sought to incorporate im- 
provements in format and mechanics. The text 
is often logically paragraphed, chapter and verse 
numbers are returned to the margin, poetry is 
distinguished from prose, Old Testament quota- 
tions in the New Testament are differentiated, 
cross references are much reduced in quantity 
and relegated to the bottom of the page, direct 
speech is sometimes paragraphed. Marginal 
notes are usually few, if any. A free, idiomatic 
rendering is not concerned about literal mean- 
ings. Most modern speech versions could be 
improved, however, by a few marginal annota- 
tions on important textual variants and prob- 
lem passages. 

Translation and revision have continued for a 
variety of reasons. Some of it reflects the pro- 
longation of efforts to improve the King James 
Version. Thus the American Bible Union work 
was carried forward until the whole Bible had 
been completed, a third revision of the 1864 
New Testament being published in 1891 by 
Hovey, Broadus, and Weston, and a revised 
Bible being issued in 1912. Charles F. Kent 

** The other collaborators were Leroy Waterman, 
Theophile J, Meek, and Alexander R. Gordon. 

produced a meritorious translation of parts of 
the New Testament for his Shorter New Testa- 
mentj published in 1919; and in the same year 
the "Concordant Version" of all except the 
Gospels was issued, based upon a text recon- 
structed from the three manuscripts, Vaticanus, 
Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus. The Gospels ap- 
peared in 1924. Several translations of individ- 
ual manuscripts have also been published. We 
cannot deal with these or with the many 
extant translations of parts of the Bible. In 
1933, George Lamsa and C. C. Torrey each 
issued versions of the four Gospels, supposedly 
reflecting new insights into the meaning of the 
text arising out of a fuller knowledge of its 
Semitic backgrounds and of Semitic documents 
hypothetically lying behind the Greek, espe- 
cially of the Gospels, the first half of Acts and 
Revelation. Lamsa's translation was really noth- 
ing but a rendering of the late (Peshitta) 
Syriac, itself a translation from Greek; Torrey's 
was a more or less ingenious attempt to recon- 
struct and translate an underlying Semitic text. 
In 1941 a group of British scholars produced 
the New Testament in Basic English. In spite 
of obvious defects due to the limited vocabulary 
of less than a thousand words, the work was well 
done. But one is disturbed thinking of the 
children whom the volume was in part supposed 
to serve by passages such as "Happy are the 
sad/' A similar translation of the Old Testament 
was produced subsequently and the two were 
published together in 1949 as The Basic Bible. 

XVI. Jewish and Roman Catholic Versions 

Work has also continued in non-Protestant 
areas. Jewish efforts in Old Testament transla- 
tion began in England with versions of the 
Pentateuch by Isaac Delgado and David Levi 
in 1785 and 1787 and complete editions more 
or less in the King James style by Benisch 
(1851-56) and Friedlander (1884). They con- 
tinued in the United States with the 1853 edi- 
tions of Isaac Leeser, widely used in both coun- 
tries, and culminated in the version published 
by the Jewish Publication Society in 1917. The 
last was the work of a committee of scholars 
which began operations in 1892 and which took 
full account of the various English versions 
previously mentioned. 85 

Among Roman Catholics the Reims-Douay 
version was soon subject to several revisions, 
the most important of which was that of the 
Douai scholar, Richard Challoner. His revision, 
which practically amounted to a new transla- 
tion, was published in 1749-50 and showed ex- 
tensive influence of the King James Version. It 

85 A fuller account of Jewish efforts is given in Max L. 
Margolis, The Story of Bible Translations (Philadelphia: 
Jewish Publication Society, 1917). 



became the standard text, especially in the Old 
Testament. A revision of Challoner by McMa- 
hon (New Testament, 1781; Bible, 1791) was 
approved by Archbishop Troy of Dublin. Arch- 
bishop F. P. Kenrick of Philadelphia also edited 
a revised text (New Testament, 1851; Bible, 
1862) , and a committee of about twenty-seven 
scholars, under the patronage of the "Episcopal 
Committee of the Confraternity of Christian 
Doctrine," completed, after five years of work, 
a revision of the New Testament which was pub- 
lished in 1941. This, although retaining much 
of the traditional language and style, makes 
some concession to modern speech. A similar 
but more independent and effective result was 
attained in the 1944 New Testament of Ronald 
A. Knox, a British scholar. In his free style he 
also published in 1948 Vol. I (Genesis to 
Esther) of the Old Testament. Vol. II (Job to 
Maccabees) appeared in 1950. While these 
revisions take account of the Hebrew and Greek 
texts, their official basis remains the Latin 
Vulgate. Independent translations, however, 
have been made directly from the original lan- 
guages, the most important of which is the West- 
minster Version edited by C. Lattey and J. 
Keating. This was published serially between 
1913 and 1935, and a one-volume edition, re- 
duced in format and slightly revised, was issued 
in 1948. The Confraternity Committee has also 
undertaken a complete retranslation from the 
original languages, following the pattern of its 
New Testament but giving up "deliberate com- 
promise with earlier usage." Genesis (1948) and 
the Psalms and Canticles (1950) have already 

XVIL The Revised Standard Version 

The effect of the new data bearing upon 
translation eventually found expression also in 
the institution of "official" projects both in the 
United States and England for a revision of the 
Revised Version. The defects of the latter had 
been highlighted by the modern speech publica- 
tions, and with the lapse of time new progress 
was made in all disciplines bearing upon ac- 
curacy of translation. New manuscripts such as 
the Washington and Koridethi Gospels and the 
Chester Beatty papyri were discovered and pub- 
lished. Scholars began to show some diminution 
of confidence in Hort's textual theories and 
results, at least so far as they pretended to re- 
store the most primitive text of the New Testa- 
ment. Great progress was made in the study of 
the Septuagint text of the Old Testament. 
Significant linguistic study and archaeological 
discovery continued. In the United States, when 
the American Standard Version copyright ex- 
pired, it was transferred by the publishers to 
the International Council of Religious Educa- 

tion, and through this representative Protestant 
organization, two committees of scholars, with 
Luther A. Weigle as chairman of both, were 
appointed to undertake revisions of the New 
and Old Testaments respectively. 86 

The work was begun in 1930 and, except for 
a few lean years (1932-37) , had continued to 
the time of publication. The New Testament 
was published in February, 1946, and the Old 
Testament will have only just appeared when 
this article is published (1952) . Recognizing the 
deficiencies of the Revised Version, the new 
version aims not only to be a clear, idiomatic, 
and "readable" translation based on the best 
available text, but also to preserve the great 
values of the Tyndale-King James tradition for 
use in public and private worship. If the whole 
can be judged by the New Testament part 
(which alone is available at the moment of 
writing) , the revisers have gone far toward the 
achievement of these purposes. The modern 
format and the dropping of the antique forms 
of the personal pronouns and verbal endings 
except in address to the deity and a few other 
places give the impression of a modern speech 
version, and this is borne out frequently by the 
phraseology; but in general, and especially in 
the familiar passages, the Revised Version is 
closely followed and modernized. An occasional 
reading is adopted from the King James Ver- 
sion. Opinion of critical readers has differed on 
a number of specific passages, both as regards 
text and translation, but not on the general 
acceptability of the work. Some feel that the 
revision did not go far enough in its adoption 
of modern idiom; others, replying, contend that 
great progress has been made in that direction 
without the sacrifice of so much of the tradi- 
tional English as to alienate the majority of 
readers and to render the volume unacceptable 
for ecclesiastical usage. The fact that the com- 
mittee of scholars which prepared the Revised 
Standard Version will continue, with necessary 
changes in membership, as a permanent com- 
mittee of the National Council of the Churches 
of Christ in the U. S. A., into which the Inter- 
national Council of Religious Education has 
merged, makes provision for progressive re- 
vision to eliminate such deficiencies as may still 
remain in it. 

In England, also, a movement for a revision 
designed for modern readers has been initiated. 
The matter was discussed in the General As- 

8 A statement of the purpose and circumstances of the 
work, of the committee members and denominational 
representatives, etc., will be found in a pamphlet written 
by the revisers: An Introduction to the Revised Standard 
Version of the New Testament (Chicago: International 
Council of Religious Education, 1946). A good summary 
of the progress in areas related to translation is here 



sembly of the Church o Scotland; and the 
upper house of the convocation of Canterbury 
on May 20, 1947, authorized the appointment 
of an interdenominational committee to work 
with the Cambridge and Oxford presses upon 
such a project. The books of the Bible (includ- 
ing the Apocrypha) have been allotted to 
translators. The present secretary of the com- 
mittee is J. K. S. Reid, and the work is under 
the general direction of C. H. Dodd. It is un- 
fortunate that the British and American re- 
visions are, apparently, entirely independent of 
each other. 

XVIIL Story Without End 

This brings us to the end of a story which 
has no end, for the task of revision will never 
be completed. We have mapped out some of 
the main tributaries and sources which have 
poured into the mainstream of our English 
Bible. We have had a glimpse of the devoted 
efforts which have given it to us both in the 
traditional text in which especially it has per- 
meated our English-speaking culture, and in 
the subsequent forms which have sought to 
bring it to us in the most accurate and intelligi- 
ble representations of its original thought. As 
certainly as the Bible remains the great classic 
of the Judeo-Christian faith and, indeed, the 
pre-eminent religious classic of all faiths, so 
surely will go on the work of making it known 
to all men, "each in his own tongue." 

XIX. Tables of Illustrative Readings 

Lin Lindisfarne Gospels 
Sh Shoreham Psalter 
Lu Luther's New Testament (1522) 
Wl First Wycliffite Bible (ca. 1382) 
W2 Second Wycliffite Bible (ca. 1400; Purvey 

T Tyndale's New Testament (1525-26) 

C Coverdale Bible (1535) 

Ma Matthew Bible (1537) 

Ta Taverner Bible (1539) 

Gr Great Bible (1539) 

Ge Geneva Bible (1560) 

Ge* Geneva Bible (1579) 

Bl Bishops' Bible (1568) 

B2 Bishops' Bible (1572) 

R-D Reims-Douay Bible (1609-10) 

KJV King James Version (1611) 

ERV English Revised Version (1881-85) 

ASV American Standard Version (1901) 

RV Revised Version (English and American) 

RSV Revised Standard Version (1946-52) 

We Weymouth New Testament (1903) 

M Moffatt New Testament (1913) , Old Tes- 
tament (1924) 

G Goodspeed New Testament (1923) 

Am American Translation, Old Testament 

The readings in the following tables have 
been taken directly from actual copies of the 
Bibles listed, with the following exceptions: 
The Wycliffe and Shoreham Psalter passages are 
from the edition of Forshall and Madden; the 
Tyndale Lord's Prayer is from the photographic 
facsimile of the quarto fragment published by 
the Clarendon Press in 1926; the other Tyndale 
passages are from the 'Verbatim" edition of 
Samuel Bagster (London, 1836) ; the Lindis- 
farne selection is reproduced from J. I. Mom- 
bert, A Handbook of the English Versions of the 
Bible (2nd. ed.; New York: D. Appleton & Co., 
1890) , p. 7. The original form is reproduced, 
except that commas are substituted for virgules, 
and italicized words are not so indicated. 

Thanks are accorded to the libraries of the 
University of Chicago and to the Newberry 
Library, Chicago, for the generous opportunity 
afforded of consulting the rare Bibles in their 
respective collections. 

PSALM 23:l-3a 

Sh Our Lord gouerneth me, and nothynge shal defailen to me; in the stede of pasture, he sett 

me ther. 
W 1 The Lord gouereneth me, and no thing to me shal lacke; in the place of leswe where he me 

ful sette. 
W2 The Lord gouerneth me, and no thing schal faile to me; in the place of pasture there he 

hath set me. 

C The Lorde is my shepherde, I can wante nothinge. He fedeth me in a grene pasture, 
Ma The Lord is my shepherde, 1 can want nothynge. He fedeth me in a grene pasture, 
Ta The Lord is my shepherde, I can wante nothynge. He fedeth me in a grene pasture, 
Gr The Lorde is my shepherde, therfore can I lack nothyng. He shall tede me in a grene pasture, 
Ge The Lord is my shepherd, I shal not want. He maketh me to rest in grene pasture, 
B God is my sheephearde, therfore I can lacke nothyng: He wyll cause me to repose my selfe in 

pasture full of grasse, 



R-D Our Lord ruleth me, and nothing shal be wanting to me: in place of pasture there he hath 

placed me. 

KJV The Lord is my shepheard; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie downe in greene pastures: 
ERV The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. 
ASV Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; 
RSV The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
Am The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want; In green pastures he makes me lie down; 

PSALM 23: 1-30 

Sh He norissed me vp water of fyllynge; he turned my soule fram the f ende 

W 1 Ouer watir of fulfilling he nurshide me; my soule he conuertide. 

W2 He nurschide me on the watir of refreischyng; he conuertide my soule. 

C and ledeth me to a fresh water. He quickeneth my soule, 

Ma and ledeth me to a fresh water. He quickeneth my soule, 

Ta and leadeth me to a fresh water. He quickeneth my soule, 

Gr and leade me forth besyde the waters of comforte. He shall conuerte my soule. 

Ge and leadeth me by the stil waters. He restoreth my soule. 

B and he wyll leade me vnto calme waters. He wyll conuert my soule. 

R-D Vpon the water of refection he hath brought me vp, he hath conuerted my soule. 

KJV He leadeth mee beside the still waters. He restoreth my soule: 

ERV He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. 

ASV He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. 

RSV He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. 

Am Beside refreshing waters he leads me. He gives me new life; 


W 1 Betere is to be clepid to wrtis with charitie, than to a fat calf with hate. 

W2 It is betere to be clepid to wortis with charitie, than with hatrede to a calf maad fat. 

C Better is a meace of potage with loue, then a fat oxe with euell will. 

Ma Better is a messe of potage with loue, then a fat oxe with euell wyll. 

Ta Better is a messe of potage with loue, then a fat oxe with euyl wyll. 

Gr Better is a measse of potage with loue, than a fat oxe with euell will. 

Ge Better is a dinner of grene herbes where loue is, than a stalled oxe and hatred therewith. 

B Better is a dynner of hearbes with loue, then a fat oxe with euyll wyll. 

R-D It is better to be called to herbes with charitie, then to a fatted calfe with hatred. 

KJV Better is a dinner of herbes where loue is, then a stalled oxe and hatred therewith. 

RV Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. 

RSV Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. 

Am Better a dish of herbs, where love is, Than a fatted ox, and hatred with it. 

M Better a dish of vegetables, with love, than the best beef served with hatred. 


Lin Fader uren thu in Heofnas, Sie gehalgud Nama thin; To Cymeth ric thin; Sie fillo thin 
Lu Unser vater ynn dem hymel. Deyn name sey heylig. Deyn reych koine. Deyn wille geschehe 
W* Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thi name; thi kyngdom cumme to, be thi wille don 
T O owe father, which art in heven halewed be thy name. Let thy kyngdom come. Thy wyll be 

KJV Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdome come, Thy will be 


Lin Suae is in Heofne and in Eortha. Hlaf userne oferwirtlic sel us to daeg; and forgev us scyltha 

Lu auff erden wie ynn dem hymel. Unser teglich brott gib vnns heutt, und vergib vns vnsere 

W 1 as in heuen so in erthe. 3iv to vs this day oure breed ouer other substaunce; and forgeue to vs 

oure dettis, 



T as well in erth, as hit ys in heven. Geve vs this daye cure dayly breade. And forgeve vs oure 

KJV in earth, as it is in heauen. Giue vs this day our daily bread. And forgiue vs our debts, 

Lin suae we forgefon scylgum urum. And ne inlead writh in Cosnunge. Al gefrigurich from evil. 
Lu wie wyr vnsern schuldigen vergeben, vnnd fure vnns nitt ynn versuchung, sondern erlose vns 

von dem vbel, 

W 1 as we forgeue to oure dettours; and leede vs nat in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. 
T even as we forgeve them whych treaspas vs. Lede vs nott in to temptation, but delyvre vs 

from yvell, 
KJV as we forgiue our debters. And lead vs not into temptation, but deliuer vs from euil: 

LUKE 2: 14 

W Glorie be in the higeste thingis to God: and in erthe pees be to men of good wille. 

T Glory to God an hye, and peace on the erth: and vnto men reioysynge. 

C Glory be vnto God an hye, and peace vpon earth, and vnto men a good wyll. 

Ma Glory to God on hye, and peace on the erth, and vnto men reioysing. 

Ta Glorye to God on hye, and peace in the erth, in men reioysynge. 

Gr Glory to God on hye, and peace on the erth. and vnto men a good wyll. 

Ge Glorie be to God in the high heauens, and peace in earth, and towards men good wil. 

B* Glorie to God on hye, and peace on the earth, and vnto men a good wyll. 

B2 Glorie to God in the hyghest, and peace on the earth, and among menne a good wyL 

R-D Glorie in the highest to God: and in earth peace to men of good will. 

KJV Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good wil towards men. 

RV Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. 

RSV Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased! 

We Glory be to God in the highest heavens, And on earth peace among men who please himl 

M Glory to God in high heaven, and peace on earth for men whom he favours! 

G Glory to God in heaven and on earth! Peace to the men he favors! 

ROMANS 3:25a 

W 1 Whom God purposide an helpere by feith in his blood, 

W2 whom God ordeynede forjyver bi feith in his blood, 

T whom God hath made a seate of mercy thorow faith in his bloud, 

C whom God hath set forth for a Mercy seate thorow faith in his bloude, 

Ma whom God hathe made a seate of mercy thorow fayth in hys bloud, 

Ta to whome God hathe made a seate of mercye, thorowe fayth in his bloude, 

Gr whom God hath set forth to be the obtayner of mercy thorow fayth, by the meanes of hys 


Ge whom God hathe set forthe to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, 
B whom God hath set foorth to be a propitiation, through fayth in his blood, 
R-D Whom God hath proposed a propitiation, by faith in his bloud, 
KJV Whom God hath set forth to bee a propitiation, through faith in his blood, 
ERV whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood, 
ASV whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, 
RSV whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 
We whom God put forward as a Mercy-Seat, rendered efficacious through faith in His blood, 
M whom God put forward as the means of propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 
G For God showed him publicly dying as a sacrifice of reconciliation to be taken advantage of 

through faith. 


W* Charite is pacient, it is benynge or of good will, . . . , it doth not gyle, it is not inblownyn 

with pride, 

W2 Charite is pacient, it is benynge; . . . , it doeth not wickidli, it is not blowun, 
T Love suffreth longe, and is corteous. . . Love doth nott frawardly, swelleth not, 



C Loue is pacient and curteous, . . . , loue doth not frowardly, is not puft vp, 

Ma Loue suffreth longe, and is corteous , Loue doth not frowardly, swelleth not, 

Ta Loue suffreth longe, is curteous. . . . , Loue doth not frowardely, swelleth not, 

Gr Loue suffreth longe, and is curteous , Loue doth not frowardly, swelleth not, 

Ge Loue suffreth long, it is bountiful: . . . : loue doeth not boast itself; it is not puffed vp; 
Bi Loue suffreth long, and is curteous. . . . , loue doth not frowardely, swelleth not, 
B2 Charitie suffereth long, and is curteous: . . . , charitie doth not frowardly, swelleth not, 
R-D Charitie is patient, is benigne: . . . , dealeth not peruersly: is not puffed vp, 
KJV Charitie suffereth long, and is kinde: . . . : charitie vaunteth not itselfe, is not puffed vp, 
RV Love suffereth long, and is kind; . . . ; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 
RSV Love is patient and kind; love is not ... boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. 
We Love is patient and kind; . . . Love is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and con 

M Love is very patient, very kind Love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, 

G Love is patient and kind. Love is not ... boastful. It does not put on airs. 

HEBREWS 11: la 

Wl Forsothe faith is the substaunce of thingis that ben to be hopid, 

W2 But faith is the substaunce of thingis that ben to be hopid, 

T Faith is a sure confidence off thynges which are hoped for, 

C Faith is a sure confidence of thinges which are hoped for, 

Ma Fayth is a sure confydence of thinges which are hoped for, 

Ta Faith is a sure confydence of thynges whiche are hoped for, 

Gr Fayth is a sure confydence of thynges, whych are hoped for, 

Ge Fayth is that, which causeth those things to appeare in deed which are hoped for, 

Ge2 Now faith is the grounde of things, which are hoped for, 

B Fayth is the grounde of thynges hoped for, 

R-D And faith is, the substance of things to be hoped for, 

KJV Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, 

ERV Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 

ASV Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, 

RSV Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 

We Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, 

M Now faith means we are confident of what we hope for, 

G Faith means the assurance of what we hope for, 

HEBREWS 11:16 

Wl and an argument or certaynte of thingis not apperinge. 

W2 and an argument of thingis not apperynge. 

T and a certayntie of thynges which are not sene. 

C and a certaynte of thinges which are not sene. 

Ma and a certayntie of thynges whych are not sene. 

Ta and a certaynte of thinges whiche are not sene. 

Gr and a certayntie of thynges whych are riot sene. 

Ge and sheweth euidently the thinges which are not sene. 

Ge2 and the euidence of things which are not sene. 

B the euidence of thynges not scene. 

R-D the argument of things not appearing. 

KJV the euidence of things not seen. 

ERV the proving of things not seen. 

ASV a conviction of things not seen. 

RSV the conviction of things not seen. 

We and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see, 

M convinced of what we do not see. 

G it is our conviction about things that we cannot see. 



XX. Selected Bibliography 

BUTTERWORTH, CHARLES C. The Literary Lineage of 
the King James Bible. Philadelphia: University of 
Philadelphia Press, 1941. 

DAICHES, DAVID. The King James Version of the 
English Bible. Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1941. 

DARLOW, T. H., and MOULE, H. F. Historical Cata- 
logue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture 
in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible 
Society. London: The Bible House, 1903-11. 

EADIE, JOHN. The English Bible. London: Macmillan 
& Co., 1876. 

GOODSPEED, E. J. The Making of the English New 
Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 

^UPPY, HENRY. A Brief Sketch of the History of the 
Transmission of the Bible. Manchester: Manches- 
ter University Press, 1936. 

Ancient Manuscripts. New York: Harper & Bros., 

PENNIMAN, JOSIAH H. A Book About the English 
Bible. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1919. 

POLLARD, ALFRED W. Records of the English Bible. 

Oxford: Henry Frowde, 1911. 
PRICE, IRA MAURICE. The Ancestry of Our English 

Bible. Ed. W. A. Irwin and Allen Wikgren. New 

York: Harper & Bros., 1949. 
ROBINSON, H. WHEELER, ed. The Bible in Its Ancient 

and English Versions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 


SCHAFF, PHILIP. A Companion to the Greek Testa- 
ment and the English Version. New York: Harper 

& Bros,, 1883. 
SIMMS, P. MARION. The Bible in America. New York: 

Wilson-Erickson, 1936. 
WEIGLE, LUTHER A. The English New Testament 

from Tyndale to the Revised Standard Version. 

New York and Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury 

Press, 1949. 
WESTCOTT, B. F. A General View of the History of 

the English Bible. 3rd ed., rev. W. A. Wright. 

London: Macmillan & Co., 1905. 
WILD, LAURA H. The Romance of the English Bible. 

Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929. 
An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of 

the New Testament. Chicago: International Coun- 
cil of Religious Education, 1946. 





I. Sources 
II. Beginnings 

III. The Second Century and the Problem of Au- 

During the early centuries of the life of the 
Christian church, its Bible was the Gieek ver- 
sion of the Old Testament known as the Septua- 
gint. According to legend, it had been translated 
entire by seventy-two Hebrew scholars whose 
results were completely in agreement. The 
translation, like the original Hebrew text, was 
regarded as verbally inspired by God. Only in 
the course of the second century did the Greek 
New Testament come to possess a status equiva- 
lent to that of the Septuagint. The Greek Old 
Testament remained basic But the religious 
ideas of the Old Testament, even in Greek 
dress, were not entirely in harmony with those 
of the New Testament or of early Christian 
theology. The experience of the children of 
Israel in the distant past, in nomadic or agri- 
cultural cultures, was different from the experi- 
ence of Christians in the crowded half-Hellen- 
ized cities of the Roman Empire. The Christian, 
striving to express the meaning of his faith, 
might have abandoned the Old Testament, ad- 
mitting that "time makes ancient good un- 
couth" * had he not possessed a boundless ven- 
eration for the mysterious wisdom of the past, 
as well as methods of reinterpreting that wisdom 
and of making it comprehensible for his own 

I. Sources 

Some of these methods of interpretation were 
traditional in the Judaism out of which Chris- 

i See Robert M. Grant, "The Place of the Old Testa- 
ment in Early Christianity," Interpretation, V (1951), 

IV. Alexandria and Antioch 
V. Jerome and Augustine 
VI. Handbooks 

tianity arose; others were gifts of the Hellenistic 
schools; and others were standards of interpreta- 
tion ultimately developed within the church 
itself. Let us first consider Jewish methods of 
exegesis. Within the Old Testament we can 
trace the reinterpretation of the cardinal events 
of religious history. Along with a progressive 
revelation went a progressive interpretation, 2 
especially in the writings of the prophets. Still 
later the prophets themselves were reinterpreted 
in the works of the apocalyptic writers of Juda- 
ism. Not the Old Testament as we view it in the 
light of historical research, but the Old Testa- 
ment explained by apocalyptic interpretation, 
was the Bible of the earliest church. 3 The earli- 
est Christians did not understand the Bible 
from its text alone, but from the mass of legends 
and legal decisions which had gathered about 
it in the previous two or three centuries. The 
stories are usually called "haggada"; under this 
heading may be classified all the nonlegal inter- 
pretations of scripture.* Beside them stood the 
"halakah," interpretations by which the Scrip- 
tures could be made to govern every detail of 
Jewish civil and religious life. 5 Both types of 
exegesis are found in early Christianity. Both 
are based on the literal meaning of a text, 
usually taken out of context, but never con- 

aj. A. Bewer, "Progressive Interpretation," Anglican 
Theological Review, XXIV (1942), 89-100. 

'Ethelbert Stauffer, Die Theologie des Neuen Testa" 
ments (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1947), pp. 1 ff. 

* See Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Phila- 
delphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1908-38). 

8 See^ Herbert Danby, The Mishnah (Oxford: Clarei* 
don Press, 1933); also Vol. VII, pp. 109-12, 



tradicted. For in Jewish eyes the whole Bible 
was verbally inspired by God. There could be 
no question of contradiction or error. 

Not all Jews, however, were completely true to 
their inherited tenets. Those who lived outside 
Palestine had a tendency to make the Bible say 
what their more enlightened neighbors said. 
They admired the "assured results" of Greek 
philosophy and wanted to enjoy a synthesis be- 
tween philosophy and religion. The most promi- 
nent "modernist" of ancient Judaism was Philo 
of Alexandria. While he once called Jerusalem 
his native city, 6 his intellectual life was largely 
centered in Hellenistic Alexandria. It was there 
that forerunners whom he occasionally men- 
tions had learned to interpret the Old Testa- 
ment allegorically. 

The allegorical method is as old as the rise of 
Greek philosophy, and probably owes its exist- 
ence to it. With the development of the Ionian 
philosophy of nature, it became impossible for 
an intelligent man to continue to take myths 
literally. It was especially difficult to accept 
Homer and Hesiod, in whose writings the im- 
moralities of the gods were described. 7 And 
from the sixth century B.C. until the end of 
antiquity and in the Renaissance there were 
many writers who attempted to get rid of the 
difficulties by claiming that the poets were 
really writing about something else. This "some- 
thing else" was usually thought to be the nature 
of the physical universe (Iliad, Theogony) or 
of ethics (Odyssey, Works and Days) . Plato or 
Epicurean literalists might criticize mythology; 
it could be claimed that this criticism was due 
to misunderstanding. Among Stoic writers, who 
combined a fairly complete rationalism with a 
cautious enthusiasm for the status quo, the 
allegorical method was especially popular. In 
the first century of our era one of them set forth 
his underlying principles as follows: 

You, O son, can refer the mythical traditions 
concerning the gods to the elements which are 
typified, ia the belief that the ancients were not 
ordinary men, but that they too were able to under- 
stand the nature of the world and were disposed to 
philosophize about it through symbols and dark 
sayings. 8 

So also a Jew, reading his Greek Old Testament 
and finding it full of anthropomorphic expres- 
sions, might come to believe that God had 
spoken to men through symbols and dark say- 
ings. And he would observe the fact that the 
heroes of the Old Testament, like those of 
Homer, lived on a different plane from men of 

8 Legation to Gains 278 

7 Fritz Wehrli, Zur Geschichte der allegorischen Deu* 
tung Homers im Altertum (Basel: 1928), p. 88. 

8 Cornutus, Theologiae graecae compendium 31. 

his own time. Their lives seemed simpler. They 
must have been types or examples. And an 
etymological analysis of their names might 
prove to the analyst (if to no one else) that they 
were really personified virtues. Philo makes such 
a study, and it is so unconvincing that recent 
critics have doubted his knowledge of the He- 
brew language. 9 

The allegorical method has very little rational 
justification, but it was highly popular in an- 
tiquity. It made possible the retention of Homer 
as a schoolbook in spite of the criticism of the 
intelligentsia. Within Christianity and Judaism 
it was the first line of defense for the Old Testa- 
ment. Even as early as the first century the 
method is used at least twice. The first and 
more famous instance is found in Gal. 4:21-24: 
"Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do 
you not hear the law? For it is written that 
Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one 
by a free woman. But the son of the slave was 
born according to the flesh, the son of the free 
woman through promise. Now this is an alle- 
gory: these women are two covenants." Here 
Paul, interpreting the history of the Old Testa- 
ment as full of types or examples for us "what- 
ever was written in former days was written for 
our instruction" (Rom. 15:4) goes so far as to 
use the Greek word for "allegory." These things, 
he says, were meant allegorically by the writers 
of scripture. Modern readers may doubt the ac- 
curacy of Paul's exegesis; but in its day it made 
the Old Testament meaningful for many Greek- 
speaking Jews and Christians. 

The other example is in the Revelation of 
John. As a whole, this apocalypse is written in 
a style and form intentionally enigmatic. In a 
description of the fall of the great city Jerusa- 
lem, the author explains that allegorically it is 
called Sodom and Egypt, for the Lord was 
crucified there (Rev. 11:8). He knows that in 
his Old Testament Jerusalem is sometimes 
called Sodom because of its wickedness (e.g., 
Isa. 1:9) ; he himself contributes the identifica- 
tion with Egypt. 

II. Beginnings 

In the New Testament allegorical exegesis is 
not ordinarily used. Most of the New Testa- 
ment writers stand close to Judaism and inter- 
pret the Old Testament literally. Nevertheless 
there is a certain air of freedom about their 
exegesis which is not found among the rabbis. 
Where does this freedom come from? It comes 
from Jesus himself. Jesus was the creator of 
Christian biblical interpretation. His exegesis 
has within it a double attitude to his Bible, 

Edmund Stein, Die allegorische Exegese des Philo am 
Alexandreia (Giessen: Alfred Topelmann, 1929), pp, 
20 ff. 



though later interpreters develop only single 
aspects of his thought. 

This double relationship to the Old Testa- 
ment has troubled commentators on the Gospels 
since ancient times. On the one hand, Jesus 
takes the Old Testament as it stands and insists 
on its permanent authority. On the other, he 
ventures to criticize it, to reinterpret it, to 
attack not only traditional interpretations but 
even scripture itself. Is not such an attitude 
paradoxical? By critical methods can we get rid 
of one or the other aspect of Jesus' interpreta- 
tion? Unfortunately, only an arbitrary criticism 
can water down the difficulty which we face. 

Well-attested sayings of the Lord prove that 
his relationship to the Jewish scriptures was 
bipolar. Brought up in a conservative Jewish 
family, he respected the authority of the law. 
To a man who wanted to "inherit eternal life" 
Jesus /quoted the second table of the Decalogue 
(Mar/k 10:19). 10 He could attack the tradition 
of tie Pharisees by claiming that they aban- 
doned the "commandment of God" (Mark 
7:8-9). While there were those who argued 
that he was destroying the law, he could be 
remembered as saying that he intended only to 
reinterpret it. His aim was revitalization, not 
destruction. David was not the only writer of 
scripture to speak "in the Holy Spirit" (Mark 
12:86); Moses and the other prophets must 
have spoken or written in the Spirit as well. The 
testimony of the Spirit could not be rejected. 

At the same time, Jesus freely criticized the 
Old Testament. His reinterpretation of the sab- 
bath (Mark 2:27; 3:4) is at least implicitly 
contradictory to the fourth commandment 
(Exod. 20:8-11). And in his rejection of the 
possibility of divorce he stands opposed to Deut. 
24:1 (Moses' bill of divorcement) , claiming that 
it is based on the "hardheartedness" of the peo- 
ple. He relegates the verse to a secondary place 
compared with Gen. 2:24 ("they shall be one 
flesh"). He contrasts the word of Moses with 
the word of God. For the normal Jewish inter- 
preter such a contrast was inconceivable. Again, 
in the Sermon on the Mount we find a whole 
series of such contrasts: "You have heard that 
it was said to the ancients . . . but I say. . . ." 
Jesus speaks with the authority of a prophet, 
and of one greater than a prophet. 

Above all, in the Last Supper Jesus interprets 
the Old Testament idea of a covenant, and of 
a new spiritual covenant, in relation to himself 
and his disciples. It is this interpretation which 
provides a seed for the growth of the later 
Christocentric exegesis of the Old Testament. 
Paul, for example, not only repeats the words 

iSee Robert M. Grant, "The Decalogue in Early 
Christianity," Harvard Theological Review, XL (1947), 

of the Lord at the Last Supper (I Cor. 11:24- 
25) , but goes on to take the whole experience 
of Israel at the Exodus as typical of the later 
experience of Jesus and his church (I Cor. 
10: Iff.). At a later date the evangelist John 
interprets the Eucharist in terms of the "bread 
of heaven," the manna which the Israelites ate 
in the desert. 

One book of the New Testament is almost 
entirely devoted to interpretation of the mean- 
ing of Jesus in terms of the Old Testament 
This book is the Epistle to the Hebrews. It 
finds its starting point in the resemblances be- 
tween Jesus and the mysterious Melchizedek of 
Gen. 14:18-20. Unlike the other actors on the 
stage of the patriarchal histories, Melchizedek 
suddenly appears and as suddenly disappears. 
He comes only to bless Abraham. And in his 
career, "without beginning of life or end of 
days," the author of Hebrews could find pretypi- 
fied the work of Jesus. Again, he can compare 
this work with the sacrificial cultus of the Le- 
vitical priesthood, and see how closely related 
both sacrifices are and how much more effica- 
cious that of Jesus is. 11 

In the New Testament as a whole, the Old 
Testament is treated as a book of hope. Chris- 
tians, following the example of Jesus and build- 
ing upon it, gradually came to reject the Jew- 
ish law as law. But since it was the inspired 
word of God, it must (they believed) contain a 
deeper meaning. This meaning they found in 
types of Christ and of his church. "As Moses 
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must 
the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14) . And 
the author of I Peter expresses the normal Chris- 
tian belief that the prophets could not be 
understood without the spirit of Christ (I Pet. 
1:1041; cf. II Cor. 5:12-18). 

III. The Second Century and the Problem of 

As the Christian church expanded into the 
world of Hellenistic culture, there were many 
within it who hoped that its Jewish chrysalis 
could be discarded. Most of the heretical minor- 
ity groups of the second century were militantly 
anti-Jewish. Marcion, for example, was con- 
vinced that he could distinguish between the 
essence of Christianity and the additions which 
the Jewish disciples of Jesus had made. He ac- 
cepted only one gospel, that of Luke, and with 
the scissors of criticism removed what he con- 
sidered the interpolations of Judaizers. Such a 
man naturally attacked the Old Testament with 
vigor. It was irrational and immoral. When 
defenders of the book tried to interpret it alle- 
gorically, their attempts were greeted with de- 

*iR. K. Yerkes, "Atonement," Anglican Theological 
Review, XXIX (1947), 28-33. 



rision. But in the second century allegorization 
was inevitable if Christianity was to be pre- 
served and not transformed. And in upholding 
allegorization it became necessary to insist on 
the right of the church to interpret the true 
meaning of scripture. Only those who had re- 
ceived the apostolic teaching through the apos- 
tolic succession could be trusted as interpreters. 
There is a considerable measure of truth in this 
contention. Without sympathy, there could be 
no possibility of understanding. Those who did 
not share the life of the main stream of Chris- 
tianity could not understand the books which 
came from an earlier level of the same river. 

Late in the second century Irenaeus, bishop 
of Lyons, set forth this principle in his work 
against heresies. It was a principle not so much 
invented as developed and defended in the heat 
of controversy. 

When they are refuted from the scriptures, they 
shift their ground and censure the scriptures, de- 
claring that they are wrong or are not authoritative, 
or that there are various readings, and that the 
truth cannot be discovered from these by those who 
do not know the tradition. 12 

By "tradition" the Gnostics meant their own 
secret oral tradition, unknown to the church as 
a whole. Irenaeus replies that the church is the 
guardian of scripture, that the orthodox tradi- 
tion is known to all, and that it alone is true. 
The same point of view was espoused at 
Carthage by Tertullian and expressed in the 
language of Roman law. When questions of 
interpretation arise, the church can enter a 
"prescription," a petition based on the fact 
that the Scriptures are the legal property of the 
church. The prescription is intended to make 
the position of heretics so precarious that their 
case will never come to court. Why argue with 
them when it is not always certain that we are 
to be victorious? 

They put forward the scriptures and by their 
audacity make an immediate impression on some 
people. ... If their strength consists in the fact 
that they are able to possess them, we must see to 
whom the scriptures belong, so that no one is ad- 
mitted to them who is not legally competent. 18 

By this argument Tertullian seeks to transfer 
the battle to a ground where the church can 
feel more confident of success. 

A Christian might well admit that heretics 
did not have the right to interpret the Bible. 
But how were those within the church to in- 
terpret it? What standard were they to use? 
Irenaeus and Tertullian agree in answering that 
the only correct exegesis is to be made according 

Against Heresies III. 2, 1. 

18 Prescription Against Heretics 15. 

to the "rule of faith" essentially the common 
Christian creed. And in the subsequent history 
of interpretation the rule of faith plays a promi- 
nent part. Indeed, theology and exegesis were 
never divorced in antiquity. The best example 
of their union is found in the Commonitorium 
of Vincent of L&ins (fifth century) , where the 
rule is laid down that interpretation must be 
made according to the Catholic faith. What is 
the Catholic faith? It is what has been held 
"everywhere, always, and by everyone." 14 Ob- 
viously this definition represents an ideal rather 
than an actuality; and in practice it eventually 
proved unworkable. But it represents an ancient 
attempt to base interpretation by authority on 
the rational ground of universal consent. 

Such an appeal to external authority, even 
though Bible and church were not regarded as 
independent entities, was not altogether satis- 
factory. It did not give any guidance in internal 
disputes. In the quarrels between the exegetical 
schools of Alexandria and Antioch it could not 
be employed. Many passages in scripture re- 
ceived little illumination from the rule of faith, 
and therefore some other standard was neces- 
sary. The lack of such a standard, among other 
things, accounts for the inconclusiveness of the 
disputes between Alexandria and Antioch. 

IV. Alexandria and Antioch 

The conflict between Alexandria and Antioch 
was not entirely a matter of exegetical theory. 
The two cities were respectively second and 
third in the Roman Empire; 15 and one may 
suspect the existence of a rivalry like that be- 
tween New York and Chicago. Again, the the- 
ological viewpoints of the two churches were 
quite different. Their emphases were divergent 
especially in matters of Christology. 18 Alexan- 
dria may be called Platonist, while Antioch was 
Aristotelian. To say this is to oversimplify the 
situation, but the statement is essentially true. 

In the biblical interpretation the two schools 
were divided over the problem of the allegoriza- 
tion of scripture. To the Alexandrians it seemed 
that God had intentionally placed stumbling 
blocks in the Bible in order to awaken men's 
minds. There were hidden truths behind the 
literal meanings. Following the Jewish exegete 
Philo, Clement of Alexandria finds hidden 
meanings throughout the Old Testament. 

The gnostic [or, as Clement uses the term, true 
Christian] does not merely lend his ear to the words 
of scripture; he opens his very soul to what is hid- 

i* Commonitorium II. 3, 

15 K O. Miiller, Antiquitates Antiochenae (Gottingen: 
1839), p. 2. 

18 See R. V. Sellers, Two Ancient Christologies (Lon- 
don: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1940). 



den under the words: realities to know and actions 
to do. 1T 

But Clement was no systematize!. Indeed, his 
longest extant work is called Scrapbooks or 
Miscellanies. Any genuine theoretical analysis 
of allegorization had to be supplied by his suc- 
cessors at Alexandria. And it is in the On First 
Principles of Origen that we find this analysis 
set forth: 

Wherever in the narrative [of scripture] the ac- 
complishment of some particular deeds did not cor- 
respond with the sequence of the intellectual truths, 
the scripture wove into the story something which 
did not happen, occasionally something which could 
not happen, and occasionally something which 
might have happened but in fact did not. 18 

Therefore the difficulties of scripture themselves 
suggest the existence of a deeper meaning. 
Origen gives examples of such difficulties from 
the Old Testament. There are days described in 
Genesis before the creation of sun and moon; 
obviously this is impossible; equally obviously 
there must be a hidden meaning. Surprisingly, 
he finds these difficulties also in the New Testa- 
ment: "Even the gospels are full of passages of 
this kind, as when the devil takes Jesus up into 
a high mountain. . . ." 19 The devil shows Jesus 
all the kingdoms of the earth (Matt. 4:8) ; 
obviously again, there is no mountain from 
which all the kingdoms can be seen; therefore 
the story does not mean what it says. Further- 
more, the Gospels disagree among themselves in 
regard to the order of events in Jesus' life. In 
theory, scripture is entirely self-consistent and 
accurate. The history it seems to portray is not 
consistent or accurate. Therefore there must be 
an allegorical meaning. In fact, because in the 
Septuagint Prov. 22:20-21 reads, "Do thou thrice 
record them . . . that thou mayest answer with 
words of truth," there is a threefold meaning 
in scripture. This meaning is literal, moral, and 
spiritual (allegorical) . 

Some of the difficulties which Origen finds 
in the Gospels are rather naive. He claims that 
several of the Lord's commandments are impos- 
sible to obey, and gives as examples the admo- 
nitions to salute no one on the road (Luke 
10:4), to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), 
and to pluck out the right eye (Matt. 5:29). 
How can you tell which eye offended? 20 At the 
same time, he is not always true to his own 
principles. He insists on the historicity of the 
story of the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28) , and 

IT Miscellanies VII. 11. 60. 3-4; Claude Mond&ert, 
CMment d'Alexandrie (Paris: Aubier, 1944), p. 110. 
IV. 2. 9. 
"Ibid., IV. 3. 1. 
. 3.3. 

relies on the Septuagint, which called her a 
ventriloquist. The story in scripture cannot be 
false. Samuel really appeared. 21 The reason for 
his opponent's caution is that unless he can 
attack the veracity of the witch on historical 
grounds, it will seem that she, a demon, has 
authority over the soul even of a prophet. But 
if Origen is not willing to allegorize this difficult 
story, on what grounds can he allegorize other 
stories which are no more difficult? Eustathius 
of Antioch was not slow to point out this incon- 
sistency. 22 

The real purpose of Alexandrian allegoriza- 
tion was avoidance of the anthropomorphisms 
of the Old Testament, which simple-minded 
Christians took literally. Here the aim of the 
school was twofold. The Alexandrians were 
eager to defend Christianity from the criticisms 
of its cultured despisers. For centuries, philoso- 
phers of every school had been pointing out the 
non anthropomorphic character of God. Surely 
Christianity, the true philosophy, was in har- 
mony with their teaching. But by presenting 
Christian theology in apologetic form, the Alex- 
andrians actually altered its teaching. Biblical 
allegorization was one of the principal methods 
of this theological movement. 

The theological bias of Alexandrian theology 
was clear to ordinary Egyptian Christians, one 
of whom wrote a work called Refutation of the 
Allegorists At the same time, Tertullian and 
others like him fought for the corporeality of 
God in an effort to avoid the excessive spiritual- 
ization characteristic of Alexandria. But the 
most important adversaries of Origen and his 
school were the exegetes of Antioch. 

The school of Antioch was noted for its literal 
and grammatical interpretation of the Bible. 
The earliest representative of it whom we know 
is Theophilus, bishop of Antioch about 180, 
whose second and third books dedicated to a 
certain Autolycus are full of literal exegesis of 
the Old Testament. Later Antiochians were ex- 
pert in the study of Hebrew or of the Greek 
text of the Old Testament. Their exegesis, 
under the influence of the prominent Jewish 
community of the city, was ordinarily soberly 
literal. The great period of the school came 
late in the fourth century, when Diodorus of 
Tarsus taught his pupils, Theodore of Mopsues- 
tia and John Chrysostom of Antioch, later 
metropolitan of Constantinople. 

Theodore was less orthodox and more origi- 
nal than his master or his fellow disciple. And 
it must be admitted that where he is original 

21 Albert Jahn, Des h. Eustathius . . . Beurtheilung 
des Ongenes betreffend die Auffassung der Wahrsagerin 
(Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1886), p. 5. 

**Ibid., pp. 21 ff. 

88 Nepos, in Eusebius Church History VII. 24. 2. 



he is usually wrong; where he is right he simply 
reproduces the general outlook o the Antioch- 
ian school. As a whole, the school rejected 
allegorization. In commenting on Gal. 4:24, 
Theodore takes the opportunity to attack 
Origen for his misuse of scripture. He contrasts 
Origen's denial of the reality of the events 
described in Genesis with the apostle's use of 
events as examples. On Origen's view, he claims, 
the reality of the fall of man is denied, and so is 
the reality of redemption. Paul, on the other 
hand, interpreted all these events as historical. 
Theodore also wrote five books "On Allegory 
and History Against Origen." These are lost, as 
is the work of Diodorus called "What Is the 
Difference Between Theory and Allegory?" (By 
"theory" the school of Antioch meant the gen- 
uine meaning of the text.) 

To the Alexandrians the literal meaning of a 
text did not include its metaphorical meaning. 
The literal meaning of "the arm of God" is that 
God really has an arm. Such an interpretation 
is an example of what Whitehead has called 
"misplaced concretion." The Alexandrians used 
this concretion as a means for introducing their 
own theological views. At Antioch, on the other 
hand, the meaning of a passage, its "theory," 
included both metaphor and simple statement. 
Obviously their analysis is the more natural of 
the two. The literal meaning of scripture cannot 
exclude metaphor. It is to Theodore's credit 
that he insisted on this position. In his view 

every passage of the Bible is provided with a 
literal meaning, whether proper or metaphorical. 
To deny this would be to suppose that the Holy 
Spirit would sometimes have spoken in order to say 
nothing. . . . Consequently, according to Theodore, 
all the biblical narratives, all the laws, even the 
ceremonial laws, must be interpreted in their simple 
literal meaning. 24 

With a similar emphasis on literalism, Theodore 
declared that most of the prophecies of the Old 
Testament had a reference to future events 
within Jewish history, and not to Christ. Only 
Pss. 2; 8; 45; 110 are psalms which predicted 

Theodore's actual results in exegesis are not 
so different from those of the Origenists as one 
might expect. One reason for this similarity is 
to be found in the fact that typology, which he 
frequently employs, is not entirely unlike alle- 
gorization. Again, he constantly stresses the 
metaphorical meaning of passages of scripture, 
while continuing to regard this meaning as 
literal. At the same time, his use of genuine 
allegorization is extremely limited. 

a * Louis Pirot, L'oeuvre exdgdtique de Theodore de 
Mopsueste (Rome: Pontifical Instituti BibHci, 1913), p. 

Chrysostom, on the other hand, as a popular 
preacher, feels more free to interpret the Bible 
allegorically. He too avoids the excesses of 

We are not irresponsible exponents of the laws on 
this matter, but may only apply the system of 
allegorical interpretation when we are following 
the mind of Scripture. . . . And this is the universal 
law of Scripture when it speaks in allegories, viz., 
to supply the interpretation of the allegory. 25 

But Chrysostom does not propose to employ a 
simple literalism: 

We must not examine the words as bare words, 
else many absurdities will follow, but we must 
mark the mind of the writer. 28 

Thus he endeavors to steer a middle course be- 
tween the fancies of allegorists and the absurdi- 
ties of simple literalists. He lays emphasis on the 
metaphorical language of scripture. 

In this connection it may be appropriate to 
refute a dictum of Cardinal Newman. In 
discussing his theory of development in Chris- 
tian thought, Newman said, "It may be almost 
laid down as an historical fact that the mystical 
interpretation and orthodoxy will stand or fall 
together." But the Alexandrians were led astray 
by their exegetical method quite as often as the 
Antiochians. The second-century Gnostics were 
ardent allegorizers. The fathers of Antioch, on 
the other hand, had a sounder understanding 
of the Bible than most of their rivals. 

F. Jerome and Augustine 

The greatest exegete of the ancient church, 
Jerome, derived much of his method from Anti- 
ochian sources. 27 Jerome's most important ac- 
complishment, the translation of the Old Testa- 
ment from Hebrew into Latin, testifies to the 
interest in the original text which he shared 
with the school of Antioch. Like the Antioch- 
ians, he was vigorously attacked. Augustine, for 
example, regarded the Septuagint as inspired 
and authoritative, and viewed Jerome's work 
as mistaken. Eventually the new version won its 
way, however, and for centuries it was the only 
translation authorized by the Roman church. 
Most new versions are opposed by backward- 
looking Christians, but few are greeted with the 
abuse which the Vulgate at first encountered. 
Jerome was called a forger and a betrayer of his 

Jerome's development as an interpreter of 
scripture is of considerable interest, for origi- 

8 F. H. Chase, Chrysostom (Cambridge: D eight on, 
Bell, & Co., 1887), p. 61. 

2 Ibtd , p. 157. 

ST A. Vaccari, "I Fattori Delia Esegesi Geronimiana," 
Biblica, I (1920), 457-80. 



nally he was a convinced Origemst. His first 
exegetical work, a commentary on Obadiah, was 
thoroughly allegorical. Later, however, when 
he studied Hebrew and lived in Palestine, he 
came under the influence of Jewish teachers and 
of the school of Antioch, and he turned to a 
more sober and literal exegetical method. This 
change was also due in large measure to the 
concentration on the text of scripture which his 
work of translation required. In his later writ- 
ings he constantly insisted on the "Hebrew 
truth" of the Old Testament, although with the 
Antiochians he held that there were spiritual 
and typological meanings which his Jewish op- 
ponents failed to understand. He believed that 
a bare literalism was barren. At the same time, 
he refused to interpret the Bible against the 
letter. "There are many things in scripture 
which sound incredible and yet are true." a8 

When historical questions came to his atten- 
tion, he was not remarkably at ease in handling 
them. The most striking instance of this diffi- 
culty is to be found in his correspondence with 
Augustine over the dispute between Peter and 
Paul at Antioch. 29 Following Origen, Jerome 
held that Peter and Paul had simply staged a 
dispute in order to give dramatic proof to Gen- 
tile Christians that the law had been abolished. 
If Paul ever observed the law, it was merely for 
convention's sake. A lengthy controversy arose 
when Augustine declared that such a staged 
dispute would have been dishonest. Historical 
criticism was rare in the ancient church, 30 and 
neither of the fathers should be blamed too 
severely for lack of interest in something they 
considered irrelevant. 

There is a considerable difference between 
Jerome and his contemporary, Augustine, as far 
as attitude to the interpretation of scripture is 
concerned. Jerome is a scholar, and while his 
outlook lacks the range of Augustine, he is 
ordinarily more accurate in matters of detail. 
Augustine, on the other hand, is a theologian, 
and in his comments on the meaning of the 
Bible there is greater depth and religious in- 
sight than in those of Jerome. On questions 
such as the correctness of the new translation of 
the Old Testament, Jerome's judgment is su- 
perior. In general, Augustine goes to the heart 
of scripture. He takes account of critical prob- 
lems but does not consider them all-important. 81 

Letters LXXII. 

a6 J. Schmid, SS Eusebii Hieronymi et Awelii Angus- 
tint Eptstulae Mutuae (Bonn: P. Haustein, 1930}, pp. 
14 ff. 

80 See Robert M. Grant, "Historical Criticism in the 
Ancient Church," Journal of Religion, XXV (1945) 

81 A. A. Gilmore, "Augustine and the Critical 
Method," Harvard Theological Review, XXXIX (1946), 
141-64. ' 

Augustine's entire early career may be re- 
garded as a search for a tenable exegetical 
method. Only when he discovered and accepted 
allegorization, under the guidance of Ambrose, 
was he able to enter into traditional Christian- 
ity. Before that time he was a halfhearted 
Manichaean. Like Marcion, his Manichaean 
teachers insisted on a literal interpretation of 
the Old Testament in order to prove its ab- 
surdity. They emphasized anthropomorphic ex- 
pressions in order to ask ironically whether God 
has hair and nails. They criticized the morality 
of the patriarchs. As for the New Testament, 
they again followed Marcion in their claim that 
the text had been interpolated by Judaizers. 82 
Augustine began to suspect their veracity when 
they proved unable to provide a copy of the 
original, genuine text But Old Testament prob- 
lems continued to disturb him. Only the ser- 
mons of Ambrose of Milan were able to bring 
him to a fresh view of the Old Testament. Am- 
brose constantly quoted II Cor. 3:6; "The 
letter kills, but the spirit gives life." This justi- 
fication of the allegorical method was not in- 
tended by Paul, who was discussing the law of 
Moses as contrasted with the free Spirit of God. 
But the exegesis of Ambrose made Christian 
faith possible for Augustine. 

Once within the church, Augustine believed 
that he ought to set down the principles of an 
exegesis which would be at the same time schol- 
arly and also centered in theology. In the year 
397 he composed most of his Christian Doctrine. 
This work is an attempt not only to insist on 
the importance of sound learning for the inter- 
preter, but also to stress the primacy of a single 
theological principle running throughout scrip- 

Whoever seems to himself to have understood the 
divine Scriptures in such a way that he does not 
build up that double love of God and neighbor, 
has not yet understood. 83 

This is the fundamental principle. If there 
remain unsolved questions of exegesis, the inter- 
preter is to consult the rule of faith, the ortho- 
dox teaching of the church, as well as the con- 
text of scripture. He must also beware of taking 
figurative language literally, or literal language 
figuratively. The authors of scripture made use 
of all the rhetorical forms known to grammari- 

In his The Harmony of the Gospels Augus- 
tine makes a suggestion to explain the differ- 
ences in the order of events in the Gospels. 
This suggestion, if consistently applied, would 
have undermined the ancient theory of verbal 
inerrancy. The reason for the differences, he 
82 Augustine Confessions III. 7; V. 11. 

" I. 36. 



&ays, is to be found in the nature of memory. 
What comes into our mind is not what we will, 
but as it is given. Therefore each evangelist 
gives the events in the order which God desired 
for him; these orders need not be the same. 84 
Obviously, then, we cannot tell and we should 
not try to tell which order is the historical 
order of events. Augustine's entire book shows 
how little he, or the ancient church generally, 
was interested in historical questions. 

With Jerome and Augustine the history of 
interpretation in the ancient church really 
comes to an end. Jerome makes use of the in- 
sights of the school of Antioch, combines them 
with his own phenomenal learning, and pro- 
duces the Vulgate. In this translation are 
summed up the achievements of the Antiochian 
fathers. Augustine, on the other hand, modifies 
the allegorical method of Alexandria while 
retaining its fundamental point of view and its 
emphasis on systematic theology. Both Jerome 
and Augustine, writing in Latin, point the way 
forward to the Middle Ages. But ancient exe- 
gesis had not come to a full stop. There re- 
mained the task of assimilation. 

VI. Handbooks 

In the third book of his Christian Doctrine, 
Augustine makes use of a book of seven rules 
composed by a certain Tyconius. The rules are 
intended to cover every situation in which an 
allegorical interpretation might seem to be de- 
manded. Like their contemporary Jewish equiv- 
alents (e.g., the thirty-two rules of Rabbi Eliezer, 
son of Rabbi Jose) , they are rather far-fetched. 
Their chief purpose is to give some rational 
ground for allegorization. Thus the first rule, 
"Of the Lord and his body/' shows that often 
in scripture what is said of Christ applies also 
to his body, the church. Another rule, "Of 
times," is really an attempt to solve difficulties 
without recourse to criticism. If one Gospel says 
the Transfiguration was eight days after the 
scene at Caesarea Philippi, while another says 
it was six, the difference can easily be explained. 
The first gives the whole period of time, while 
the second gives only a part. The same rule 
takes care of the difference between "on the 
third day" and "after three days" in the resur- 
rection narratives. Another rule, "On recapitu- 
lation," provides the traditional explanation 
of the double account of creation in the book 
of Genesis. 

Perhaps the most interesting feature about 
these rules lies not in the rules themselves, but 
in the fact that Augustine thought it worth 
while to use them. As the great period of ancient 
exegesis draws to its close, biblical interpreta- 
tion, like other manifestations of intellectual 

* II. 21. 

life, is becoming more and more stereotyped. It 
is becoming fixed in rules. To be sure, the works 
of the great commentators like Origen are pre- 
served, but most interpreters read them in 
"catenas/' chains of exegetical materials in cap- 
sule form. 36 The freshness of early exegesis has 
gone. Theodore of Mopsuestia is condemned 
not so much for being wrong as for being orig- 
inal. It is noteworthy that his commentaries 
survived only in the Syriac language and in 
Latin under the name of Ambrose. 

Through manuals of interpretation, perhaps 
more than in any other way, the exegetical out- 
look of antiquity was able to influence the 
thought of the medieval church. When Cassi- 
odorus in the sixth century compiled an intro- 
duction to sacred studies, he recommended five 
earlier writers. They were Tyconius, Augustine 
(Christian Doctrine), Adrian, Eucherius, and 
Junilius. 88 Augustine and Tyconius have al- 
ready been mentioned. Let us now consider the 
last three names. 

Eucherius of Lyons, who died about 450, 
wrote a handbook on the interpretation of 
scripture which summed up for the Western 
church the methods of Origen without his the- 
ological acumen. This book was called Rules 
for Allegorical Interpretation. Eucherius begins 
with an introduction in which he sets forth his 
theory of exegesis. First he proves the existence 
of symbolic language in scripture. Next he 
justifies its existence by the necessity of keeping 
pearls from swine; for this reason anthropomor- 
phisms are found in the Bible. He finds a three- 
fold meaning in scripture: historical, tropologi- 
cal, and anagogical. This division, found in 
various forms as early as Origen, is sometimes 
made fourfold, as Eucherius says, by the addi- 
tion of allegory. 37 "Tropology" involves a moral 
meaning, while the "anagogical" refers to a 
secret and heavenly meaning. As an example, 
he offers "And the waters which are above the 
heavens shall praise the name of the Lord" 
(Ps. 148:4) . "Heaven" historically or literally 
means the sky, tropologically, heavenly life; 
"waters" allegorically mean baptism, anagogi- 
cally, the angels. Most of Eucherius' work is 
devoted to explaining away anthropomorphic 
expressions and to giving the allegorical mean- 
ing of animals and forces of nature in the Bible. 
He is perhaps farthest from reality in his last 
chapter, on numbers. But the text of his work 
as printed in Migne has been interpolated by 

85 See G. Heinrici, "Catenae," New Schaff-Herzog En- 
cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (New York: Funk & 
Wagnalls, 1908), II, 451-53. 

* 8 Institutiones I. 10. 

87 Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 
XXXI, 5. See Ernst von Dobschutz, "Vom vierfadien 
Schriftsinn," in Harnack-Ehrung (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 
1921), pp. MS. 



ingenious number-allegorists of later times. His 
own work, recovered by Wotke, does not do 
much more than give biblical examples of the 
use of some numbers between one and one 

The two other handbooks reflect not the 
school of Alexandria, but that of Antioch. The 
Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures of Adrian 
seems to have been written shortly before 
Eucherius* work, 38 It is divided into three parts 
because there are three characteristics of He- 
brew expressions, based on meaning, phrase- 
ology, and composition. "Meaning" involves the 
problem of anthropomorphisms; "phraseology" 
is concerned with metaphorical expressions and 
explains them in terms of biblical usage; "com- 
position" considers rhetorical forms in relation 
to the interpretation of scripture. Adrian con- 
cludes his work with a brief general discussion 
of holy scripture and interpretation. In this the 
influence of the school of Antioch is clear. He 
states that there are two forms in the divine 
scripture: prophetical and historical. Each of 
these deals with past, present, and future. While 
literal exegesis is primary, we must go farther, 
beyond the mere unsymbolical analysis of the 
letters. Like other Antiochians, Adrian is not 
content with simple literalism. He stands close 
to Chrysostom. 

Finally we have the Rules for the Divine Law 
of Junilius Africanus, written about 550, in 
which the peculiar ideas of Theodore of 
Mopsuestia concerning the canon of the Bible 
are combined with a systematic treatment of 
exegesis. This analysis is made on the basis of 
the Aristotelian rhetoric which flourished in 
sixth-century Syria. Junilius nods in passing to 
the Augustinian principle of love of God and 
neighbor, but he makes little use of it. His 
rules were widely influential in the early Middle 
Ages. 88 At the end of his work he sets forth an 
Aristotelian principle which doubtless made his 
theories palatable to scholastic-minded Chris- 
tians. After proving the divine inspiration of 
scripture from the truth and consistency of the 

"Friedrich Goessling, Adrians EIIAfnrH Ell TAI 
9EIAZ TPA0AI (Berlin: H. Reuther, 1887), p. 13. 

9 Heinrich Kihn, Theodor von Mopsuestia und Junil- 
ius Africanus als Exegeten (Freiburg im Breisgau: 
Herder, 1880), pp. 302 ff. 

Bible, he finds that he has left little place for 
faith. The reason for this is that our religion is 
superrational, but not irrational: "What reason 
teaches, faith understands, and where reason 
fails, faith leads the way." Faith and reason are 
never opposed to each other. The separation of 
exegesis from theology has begun. 

The study of the interpretation of the Bible 
in the ancient church is a vast field. We have 
skimmed the surface, but enough has been said 
to make plain the fact that the problems of 
ancient interpreters were much like our own. 
The debate between Alexandria and Antioch 
is a perennial one, now to some extent by-passed 
by the idea of development within biblical 
thought, but never entirely settled. Yet at the 
end of antiquity little fresh investigation of the 
meaning of scripture was being made. Inter- 
preters were content to regard themselves as 
dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, and to seek 
all their inspiration in the past. The vigor and 
originality of Origen or Theodore of Mopsues- 
tia had been lost; the authoritarianism of Vin- 
cent of Lerins had taken its place. Even Augus- 
tine felt that toward the end of his life he ought 
to publish New Treatments of any points, 
exegetical or theological, in which he might 
have slipped into heterodoxy. Satisfactory exe- 
gesis could not be carried on in such an atmos- 

At the same time, enough of the exegetical 
work of the earlier fathers was preserved so that 
their disagreements could be seen. There was 
almost no exegetical point on which they 
unanimously agreed. And this measure of differ- 
ence helped, when learning once more flour- 
ished, to keep the interpretation of the Bible 
alive. In the writings of the fathers we find no 
enduring exegetical method. We find attempts 
to solve difficulties by means of the best tools 
available. But the fathers rarely if ever con- 
sidered the possibility that a passage of scrip- 
ture meant something different to its writer 
from what it meant in their own day. For this 
reason the tools employed by the fathers are 
not those which later interpreters were to find 
most useful.* 

* A selected bibliography on the history of biblical 
interpretation will be found on p. 141. Editors. 






I. The Middle Ages 

A. The Period of Gregory and Bede 

B. Development of Allegory 

C. Toward a More Historical Exegesis 

D. Tension Between History and Allegory 

E. The Scholastic Age 

F. Rashi and Nicholas of Lyra 

The purpose of this article is to mark a few 
guideposts on the course of Bible interpretation 
through the centuries from Vincent of L&rins 
to Luther and Calvin and their contemporaries. 
The conception of the Bible as holy writ, resting 
upon divine authority, and entirely distinct 
from other human writings, had been increas- 
ingly affirmed from the second century to the 
fifth. The canon of Scripture was defined in 
controversy with Gnostics who were inventing 
their own scriptures. The process involved for 
the Catholic church the assertion of the prin- 
ciple of tradition as the basis of selection of 
authoritative books. As the test of canonicity, 
tradition tended to assume an authority supe- 
rior to that of Scripture itself. But once the 
canon was established, the accepted books weie 
held in peculiar reverence, and the balance of 
authority between the Scripture and tradition 
seems to have been in some degree altered in 
favor of the former. During the decade that fol- 
lowed the death of Augustine (430), Vincent 
of Le*rins in his Commonitorium (434) asserted 
the primacy of Scripture, but stressed the neces- 
sity of interpreting it in accordance with tradi- 
tion. Vincent would defend the church against 
heretics and fortify Christian faith, "first, by 
the authority of the divine law [Scripture], 
and secondly by the tradition of the Catholic 
church," The canonical Scriptures are admit- 
tedly "sufficient for everything," but they are 
variously misinterpreted. He therefore holds it 

II. The Reformation 

A. Martin Luther 

B. John Calvin 

C. Other Reformation Interpreters 

urgently necessary "that the rule of interpreta- 
tion of the Prophets and Apostles be laid down 
in accordance with the norm of ecclesiastical 
and Catholic understanding [sensus]" This is 
the position that was to have general adherence 
in the medieval church. 

Already, then, the Bible, as delimited in the 
canon, was fully recognized as the Book of God. 
In the language of the church fathers it was "the 
sacred writings," "the divine law," "the sacred 
page," "the word of God." In accordance with 
this conception it afforded the chief public 
reading in church and monastic services, and 
the series of lections for public worship was 
already substantially determined. Furthermore, 
the Scriptures furnished the principal inspira- 
tion of those Christians who seriously engaged 
in the cultivation of their own personal piety. 
Searching the Scriptures for edification became 
a feature of life in the early monastic communi- 
ties. The lectio divina (divine reading) was a 
common exercise of monks before and after 
Benedict. It involved an intensive devotion to 
the study of Scripture. The Rule of Benedict 
itself, almost from beginning to end, offers 
remarkable evidence of the functioning of 
scriptural knowledge and suggestion in the 
monastic mind. In his last chapter Benedict 
speaks depreciatively of what he has written by 
comparison with the Scriptures and the fathers 
and monastic writers; and here he asks rhetor- 
ically: "For what page or what word of divine 



authority o the Old and the New Testament 
is not a perfect norm [rectissima nor ma] of 
human life?" 

Benedict's use of scripture passages is direct 
and practical. It is noteworthy that he does not 
follow his master and Vincent's contemporary, 
John Cassian, in utilizing allegorical or other 
nonliteral senses. Cassian, explaining the true 
meaning of scripture, had compared the spir- 
itual sense with the literal by reference to the 
son of the free woman and of the bondwoman 
in the Abraham story, and to the "double gar- 
ments" referred to in the Vulgate rendering of 
Prov. 31:21. Cassian also subdivided the spiritual 
interpretation much in the fashion of medieval 
writers. From I Cor. 14:6, "What shall it profit 
except I speak either by revelation or by knowl- 
edge or by prophecy or by doctrine," he deduces 
the four senses, allegorical, tropological, ana- 
gogical, and historical. 1 There are, of course 
many passages in Cassian which employ simply 
the historical or literal sense in the manner of 
Benedict. In a well-known epigram Gregory 
the Great commends Benedict's lack of school- 
ing. In using the Bible for simple direction the 
good abbot may have been unaware that his 
writing favored the Aristotelian Antiochian 
literal interpreters against the Platonic-Philonic 
Alexandrian allegorists. 

/. The Middle Ages 

A. The Period of Gregory and Bede. The 

allegorists, to be sure, had not carried all before 
them in the ancient church, and though allegory 
flourished in most of the medieval Latin com- 
mentaries, it was, as we shall see, frequently 
criticized and sometimes completely abandoned. 
Moreover, a change was coming over the spirit 
of interpretation as the institutions and doc- 
trines of the church became more rigid. Allegory 
would no longer be used with the originality 
and ecclesiastically dangerous freedom that 
marked some passages of Origen and even of 
Ambrose, but rather, in the spirit of Vincent's 
canon, under the governing idea of the ecclesi- 
astical tradition. This tradition was now en- 
shrined mainly in the writings of the fathers. 
Through the period of Gregory the Great and 
the Venerable Bede some measure of originality 
and independence remains. Thereafter, for six 
or seven centuries, the dominant type of biblical 
interpretation rested upon direct or indirect 
quotation of the patristic literature and was 
equally dependent and repetitious. In some 
quarters, however, freedom and originality 
were not wanting. 
Gregory the Great lent his influence to the 

1 Conferences XIV. 8. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesias- 
ticorum Latinorum, XIII, ii, pp. 404 ff, See above, p. 
113 and below, p. 131, 

side of the spiritual as opposed to the literal 
exegesis. Five centuries after him Guibert de 
Nogent found in Gregory's writings "the keys 
to this art," that is, the art of expounding 
spiritual senses. "Allegory," says Gregory, ex- 
pounding the Song of Songs, "makes a kind of 
machine for the soul far off from God by which 
it may be raised up to him." a His use of the 
method may be illustrated from the MoraUa, 
his lectures on the book of Job. In the dedica- 
tory epistle to Leander which precedes this 
work, he states that he is responding to the 

that I would not only expound the words of the 
history in allegorical senses, but that I would direct 
the sense of the allegories into an exercise in mo- 
rality, adding to this something more difficult, that 
I would surround the several meanings with testi- 
monies and that the testimonies presented, if per- 
chance they should seem involved, should be un- 
tangled by the insertion of additional expositions. 8 

In the preface to this work Gregory gives us his 
high conception of the authorship of scripture. 
He refuses to become involved in an investiga- 
tion of the human authorship of the book of 
Job, since it is the work not of a man, but of 
the Holy Spirit: 

But who was the writer, it is utterly useless to 
ask; since at any rate the Holy Spirit is trustworthily 
believed to have been the Author of the book. He, 
therefore, who dictated the things to be written, 
himself wrote them. He himself wrote them who 
was both the Inspirer in that writer's work, and by 
the utterance of the writer has passed on to us his 
acts for our imitation. If we were reading the words 
of some great man whose letters we had received, 
yet were to ask by what pen they had been written, 
it would truly be ridiculous, to know the author of 
the epistles and understand his meaning, and yet to 
make search to know with what sort of pen the 
words were set down. Thus when we understand 
the matter, and hold that the Holy Spirit was its 
Author, in seeking out the writer, what else are we 
doing than in reading a letter to inquire about the 

We are soon plunged into a maze of Gregory's 
spiritual expositions. We learn that the three 
friends of Job are the heretics, and that when 
they come to Job, they are returning to holy 
church; Job himself maintains a semblance to 
the Redeemer to come. His name means "griev- 
ing," a forecast of the Mediator's passion and of 
the travails and afflictions of holy church in 
this life. Job's seven thousand sheep are in- 
nocent thoughts; the three thousand camels are 

2 Exposition of the Song of Songs. Prologue, 2. Jacques 
P Migne, Patrologia Latina, LXXIX, 473. 

3 Migne, op. cit. f J,XXV, 512, 
4/fcfU, 517, 



high and vain notions; the five hundred oxen 
are virtues, and the five hundred she-asses arc 
wanton inclinations. In the words of Job, "My 
sighing cometh before I eat," we see the groan- 
ing of sorrow before the gladness of contempla- 
tion. Arcturus, Orion, the Pleiades, and the 
chambers of the south in Job 9:9 represent 
respectively the church, the martyrs, the doctors, 
and the Holy Spirit. One might go on enumer- 
ating countless instances of what seems a need- 
less insistence upon the items of ecclesiastical 
life, and in some cases sheer wresting of scrip- 
ture meanings; but there is no doubt of the 
deep sincerity of the author's mind in these 
matters. He was not merely indulging a way- 
ward imagination. Like other serious allegorists, 
he is deeply concerned for the reader's ethical 
and spiritual enrichment and the support of the 
orthodox faith. He is never far from the de- 
mands of practical piety. "What," he asks, "are 
the sayings of truth if we do not take them as 
food for the nourishment of the soul?" 

The dogmatic control of the spiritual senses 
of scripture was to be more fully developed in 
later times. It would result in a long series of 
scripture commentaries which contain extended 
catenae of quotations from accepted church 
fathers. The Venerable Bede is one of the first 
to profess in his interpretations a substantial 
dependence upon the fathers. He speaks o 
scripture study as medicine for the soul. In his 
exegesis the purpose of edification is completely 
dominant. He rests his Commentary on Luke 
upon the works of Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, 
and Gregory. But while Bede patiently seeks 
out tradition as conveyed by these fathers, he 
exhibits also a considerable body of independ- 
ent interpretation, and at least regards it as 
legitimate that he should express his own judg- 
ments. In the letter to Acca, bishop of Hexham, 
that accompanies his Commentary on Luke, he 
adds to his expression of reverence for the 
fathers the modest statement: 

A few items, too, which (as I may say in the 
words of your Holiness) the Author of Light dis- 
closed to me, I have added, as seemed appropriate, 
by my own labor. Even though I am not able to 
spend (as you yourself phrased it) days and sleepless 
nights in meditation on the Divine Law, yet I have 
no doubt that I have devoted myself to the Scrip- 
tures with no slight zeal, and that I have been able 
to see, that is, to perceive and discern, not in this 
book alone, but in every passage, only those things 
which the Author of Light deigned to show me. 5 

This sense of something of the nature of a 
direct illumination in Bede may remind us of 
the teaching of John Calvin regarding the 

* Ibid., XCII, 305. H. H. Glunz has called attention to 
this passage, and gives a condensed translation of it in 
History of the Vulgate in England from Alcuin to Roger 

testimony of the Holy Spirit enlightening the 
de\ out reader. It was from Ambrose and Augus- 
tine that Bede derived his interpretation of the 
parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The 
prodigal is worldly philosophy which, unsatis- 
fied, having deserted its true master, Christ, yet 
hungers after truth, while the faithful Christians 
receive the bread of the word in the father's 
house, which is identified with the church. 
Glunz points out that the Vulgate text was 
affected by this type of interpretation. Some 
interpreters, applying Alcmn's realistic prin- 
ciple substantia commune est nomcn omnium 
rerum quae stint* felt that the text itself 
ought to contain a reference which could be 
directly used to signify "church," and so inter- 
polated the phrase in domo in the text of Luke 
15:17. The father's "house" is the church from 
which the prodigal son has departed. Thus 
hermeneutic presuppositions were forcing 
alterations in the text itself. Glunz connects this 
interpolation with the attention given to the 
interpretations of Ambrose and Bede in the 
school of Alcuin, whose study of the Bible marks 
the beginning of the more typical medieval 

B. Development of Allegory. Alcuin repre- 
sents a type of interpretation which not only 
relies upon the fathers but sincerely attempts to 
restrict itself to patristic authority. He explains 
that as physicians do not create their medicines 
but procure them from a variety of sources, so 
he proposes to use Augustine, Ambrose, Greg- 
ory, Bede, and other holy fathers. Originality is 
confined to selection. He "wanders through the 
blossoming fields" of the patristic literature 
with a humble heart and a bowed head, and 
culls passages in reliance upon his own judg- 
ment, being cautious to set down nothing con- 
trary to the interpretations of the fathers. 7 

Many followed Alcuin's method of interpreta- 
tion. Rabanus Maurus, his most distinguished 
pupil, searched the fathers with even more 
diligence than Alcuin, and favored spiritual 
interpretations calculated to support the struc- 
ture and dogma of church tradition. Thus the 
four wheels of Ezekiel's chariot are the Law, 
the Prophets, the Gospels and the Apostles. 8 He 

Bacon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), 
p. 80. 

6 "Substance is the common name of all the things 
that are." Migne, op. cit. f VI, 418; cf. Glunz, op. cit., 
pp. 87 ff. 

* Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Migne, op. 
dt., C, 743, and Glunz, op. cit., pp. 81 ff. Alcuin was 
deeply concerned to combat the prevailing neglect of the 
Scriptures in the schools. In 797 he wrote to the church 
of Canterbury urging the appointment of competent 
teadiers, "lest the Word of God be lacking among you." 
"Ignorance of Scripture," says Alcuin, "is ignorance of 
God." Migne, op. cit., C, 250. 

8 Migne, op. cit,, CX, 525 ff. 



tells us that the book of Esther contains in 
manifold ways the sacraments of Christ and the 
church. Esther, as typifying the church, frees 
her people from peril; Haman stands for 
iniquitaS; and Ahasuerus is a type of Christ. In 
such interpretations the typology of Rabanus is 
only remotely similar to that employed by the 
Protestant reformers: it relies largely upon 
etymologies, many of which are erroneous. 
Rabanus is, however, an exponent of the four 
senses of scripture. These are, he explains in 
the preface to his book Allegories on Holy Scrip- 
ture, four daughters of one mother, Wisdom. 
He here refers to the historical interpretation 
as milk, the allegorical as bread, the anagogical 
as savory nourishment, and the tropological as 
exhilarating wine. Elaborating numerous com- 
parisons, he observes: "In the house of our 
soul history lays the foundation, allegory erects 
the walls, analogy sets on the roof, and tropol- 
ogy provides the ornaments." 10 With his de- 
pendence upon the church fathers, he is harsh 
toward the exponents of fresh opinions. 

Walafrid Strabo (d. 849) , who became abbot 
of Reichenau, carried on the Alcuin tradition 
after Rabanus. The Glossa Ordinaria, a uni- 
versal commentary on scripture, was assumed in 
the later Middle Ages to be the work of Wala- 
frid. In fact it was substantially of later origin, 
but it well illustrates the tendency of the 
Alcuin school. It is a compilation of extracts 
from the fathers, usually with the name of the 
original author indicated. Many Bible passages 
are left unnoticed, but a large body of mate- 
rial is presented. 11 The Glossa Ordinaria was 
one of those useful works which, while possess- 
ing no claim to originality, have exercised great 
influence. It is a mark of weakness in the later 
scholastics that they recognized this anthology 
as an authoritative work of interpretation. 
Thomas Aquinas honors it with countless cita- 

Not only the monastic scholars but, as we 
should expect, the zealous reformers of monas- 
ticism in the early Middle Ages, have much to 
say about the Scriptures and urgently seek to 
give reality to the lectio divina. Benedict of 
Aniane (d. 821) seizes upon the passage in the 
final chapter of the Rule of Benedict of Nursia 
which has been quoted above (p, 115) , and sets 
it in the first paragraph of his Concordia Regu- 
larum. 1 * The brilliant leadership of Odo of 
Cluny (d. 942) gave a new impulse to mo- 
nasticism in the early tenth century. Odo under- 
took in early life, even before he had become a 

*lbid., CIX, 635 ff. 

10 Ibid., CXII, 849. 

11 The work occupies about two thousand columns in 
Migne, op. cit. f CXUI, CXIV. 

Migne, op. cit. f GUI, 718. 

monk, to labor upon interpretations of the 
Bible. But he felt serious scruples, and under 
the criticism of his clerical associates at Tours, 
shrank from independent opinions. His chief 
contribution was his Epitome Moralium, a 
condensation of Gregory's work on Job. In 
another work, the Collationes, he gives further 
evidence of his interest in the Bible. In the 
opening section of this work Odo says, "If there 
is anything which can keep a wise man stead- 
fast amid worldly turmoil, it is most of all, I 
believe, meditation on the Scriptures. ... In- 
deed, the intention of all scripture is to restrain 
us from the depravity of this life." 13 This is the 
true spirit of monastic injunctions regarding 
the Scriptures. It does not directly conduce to 
technical' study of the text or to independent 
intellectualmng of its meaning. The monk is a 
seeker after spiritual security. Similar is the at- 
titude of Gerard de Brogne (d. 959) , a reformer 
of moriastidsm in the region of Ghent in the 
Netherlands. Gerard became a preacher, thereby 
attracting recruits to his movement. His early 
biographer tells us that he sought "by opening 
the fountain of the Scriptures to water their dry 
minds," and to induce the spiritually weak 
brethren to "take the life-giving herb of the 
divine word" for the healing of their vices. 1 * 

The Norman monk and prelate, Lanfranc 
(d. 1089) , who played an important part in 
the church of England, like Alcuin and his 
followers relied upon the patristic writings and 
resented any attempt to evade that authority. 
Thus he was a determined opponent of Beren- 
gar (d. 1088) , who in a dialectical manner in- 
troduced new interpretations of the passages of 
scripture concerning the Lord's Supper. This 
to Lanfranc was "pertinacious arrogance." 
Lanfranc, however, exhibits a great interest in 
improving the Vulgate texts, and the copying 
of the Scriptures flourished in the monasteries 
that fell under his influence. 

C. Toward a More Historical Exegesis. 
There were other authors, however, who were 
nonconformists with respect to the senses of 
scripture and to the fashion of dependence 
upon the fathers. This is true of the illustrious 
Irishman, Johannes Scotus Erigena (d. in or 
after 877) . The philosophical mind of Erigena 
is not satisfied with the sharp distinction be- 
tween the word and its spiritual meaning as- 
sumed by the Alcuin school. What is needed is 
sound intellectual understanding of the text. 
The language itself has everything in it if only 
the mind is taught to draw it forth. This posi- 
tion encourages the labor of interpretation and 
at the same time the effort to obtain the best 

., CXXXIII, 520. 
14 Glunz, op. cit,, p. 38; text in Monumenta Germaniae 
Historica, Scriptores (Hannover: Hahn, 1888), XV, 671. 



possible text. Erigena himself examined textual 
variants, seeking a fuller understanding of 
scripture. 15 

The gifted monk of St. Gaul, Notker Balbulus 
(d. 912) , also favored a more critical interpre- 
tation and was somewhat disinclined to allegory. 
In a sort of bibliographical guide to commen- 
taries on the Scriptures, Notker dryly remarks 
that the Venerable Bede, in his comments on 
Tobias and Esdras, wrote what was pleasant 
rather tharf what was required and tried to turn 
a simple story into allegory. 18 

Christian of Stavelot (d. 850) , commonly 
called Druthmar, at the beginning of his com- 
mentary on Matthew, wrote: 

I have studied to follow the historical more than 
the spiritual sense because it seemed to me irra- 
tional to seek for spiritual knowledge in any book 
and to be utterly ignorant of the historical, since 
history is the foundation of all knowledge [quum 
historia fundamentum omnis intelligentiae sit]. 17 

Druthmar does not revel in allegory, but he 
likes to offer brief historical notes on place 
names, and simple expositions of unusual words. 
On the other hand, he takes a great interest in 
edifying etymologies and typological identifica- 
tions. In Matthew's genealogy, for example, 
Abraham "signifies" the Father, Isaac the Lord 
Jesus Christ. 18 

In the twelfth century we have a number of 
commentators who show a marked departure 
from the current methods of exegesis. Among 
these is Rupert of Deutz (d. 1135) . This learned 
abbot commented on many Old and New Testa- 
ment books, and wrote a quite remarkable 
treatise, On the Victory of God's Word (1127) . 
Christ, for .Rupert as for Luther, is the center 
of all scripture. On Rev. 12:21 and Eph. 2:20 
he remarks that the prophets are foundations, 
the apostles foundations of foundations, and 
Christ the foundation of all foundations. 19 In 
his Victory of God's Word he argues that "the 
Word of God is the Son of God," and that the 
Scriptures are necessary to salvation and suffi- 
cient for faith. In our natural ignorance of God 
they are our one light, and the guide to the- 
ology. The Scripture is not a book of dark 
mysteries, but essentially simple, and suitable 
for the unlearned. The teacher of the Word 
should be one taught of God, and trained for 

16 Glunz, op. cit., pp. 108 ff. 

ie JD Interpretibus Divinarum Scripturarum. Migne, 
op. cit., CXXXI, 997. 

17 Migne, op. cit., CVI, 1262; the commentary has been 
examined by M. L. W. Laistner, "A Ninth-Century Com- 
mentator on the Gospel According to Matthew," Harvard 
Theological Review, XX (1927), 129-49, with attention 
chiefly to text. 

* Migne, op. cit., CVI, 1268. 
., CLXIX, 1198. 

the combat like Job's war horse. We receive die 
Word as from the mouth of God. 20 In the pref- 
ace to his Commentary on John's Gospel Rupert 
rejects the view that Augustine is a sufficient 
authority, and affirms the right of other Chris- 
tians to expound the books. Nor is it necessary 
to rest on the authority of Gregory for Job. ul 
He is more typically medieval when he makes 
the seven days of creation a forecast of the 
seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. He laid a novel 
emphasis in his soteriology upon the work of 
the Holy Spirit, and his doctrine of the Euchar- 
ist was under suspicion as a reflection of the 
heresy of Berengar. 22 

The work of the Victorines was also startling. 
Both Hugh (d. 1141) and Andrew (d. 1175) 
of St. Victor profited by the Old Testament 
scholarship of the new school of French rabbis 
who followed Solomon Rashi (d. 1105) of 
Troyes. Half a century ago Nicholas of Lyra 
was regarded as the first Christian greatly in- 
debted to Rashi. Recent scholarship has shown 
a powerful leaven of Rashi's literal, rational 
exegesis upon the Christian scholars of the 
twelfth century. Beryl Smalley's revealing book, 
The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages** 
strongly supports this view, and also reinforces 
the evidence that, from Rabanus Maurus down, 
Jewish scholars were frequently consulted by 
Christians. In view of what is now known of 
Rashi's Jewish and Christian influence in many 
lands, it would be difficult to name a more im- 
portant writer in the whole history of interpre- 
tation. Herman Hailperin 2 * has clarified this 
matter further. He points out that amid* the 
anti-Jewish enactments and riots of the early 
thirteenth century, when the Talmud and 
Rashi's commentaries were burned at Paris, 
Christians were busy translating parts of both. 
A century earlier Bernard of Clairvaux was 
anxious about this intellectual traffic with Jews. 
He rebuked a young scholar for "gnawing crusts 
with the lettered Jews": "crust" is here the 
letter of the bread of scripture. 

Of the three great Victorines, Hugh was a 
Saxon, Richard a Scot, and Andrew an English- 
man. Hugh went for help to the rabbis and 
worked mainly on the Old Testament. He re- 
buked those who despised the letter. "Subtract 
the letter, and what is left?" he cogently asks. 
He advises, "Do not despise what is lowly in 

20 De Victoria Verbi Dei, chs. i-iv. Migne, op. cit., 
CLXIX, 1217-29. 

ai Migne, op. cit., CLXIX, 201-2. 

A. J. Macdonald, Berengar and the Reform of Sacra- 
mental Doctrine (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 
1930), pp. 399-400. For Rupert's theology see the article 
on him in Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique (Paris: 
Letouzey et An<, 1903), XIV, 169-205. 

2 8 Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941. 

2* "The Hebrew Heritage of Mediaeval Christian Bib- 
lical Scholarship," Historia Judaica, V (1945), 135-54. 



God's Word." He criticizes the interpretation 
of Isa. 4:1, "seven women shall take hold of one 
man/' as referring to the seven gifts of the 
Spirit, without acknowledging that the prophet 
means something literal as well. Hugh would 
select among patristic commentaries "that which 
has been certainly intended by the author/' or 
if that is unclear, what is admissible and in 
accord with the faith. On Ecclesiastes he blames 
those who "strive superstitiously to find a mys- 
tical sense and a deep allegory where none is." 
Possessed of a fine imagination, he was able to 
illuminate the literal meaning without "toiling 
after tropologies." Beryl Smalley writes, "His 
great service to exegesis was to lay more stress 
on the literal interpretation relatively to the 
spiritual." 25 In De Area Noe Morali 2a he ex- 
plains his classroom drawings designed to show 
the ark just as Noah built it. But Hugh is no 
mere literalist. He employs with the Alexan- 
drians the allegorical and tropological as well as 
the literal sense. "The Ark signifies the church/' 
he here observes, "and the church is Christ's 
body; so I have drawn the whole person of 
Christ, head and members. . . ." 27 

Richard (d. 1173) and Andrew had more 
knowledge of Hebrew than Hugh. Richard, like 
Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote against the Jewish 
literal, and to him therefore false, interpreta- 
tion. Richard asks his readers not to be sur- 
prised if something has escaped the fathers. 
What has escaped them is the value of the lit- 
eral meaning. He implies that Gregory was 
mistaken in saying that the second vision of 
Ezekiel had no meaning according to the letter. 
Yet this independence is asserted with great 
deference to the patristic authors. The earlier 
reapers who have filled their volumes with corn 
have left gleanings for the poorl We honor the 
fathers by seeking the truth beyond their reach. 
"Do not ask whether what I say is new, but 
whether it is true." Richard will not be misled, 
however, by Jewish tradition to question the 
authority of the Scriptures. In a slap at Andrew, 
he warns that Josephus is not to be taken as 
authoritative simply on the ground that he is a 
Jew. 28 

Andrew was the most radical of the cham- 
pions of rational literalism. He was the Aboard 
of Bible scholars. Beryl Smalley even calls him 
a humanist. He writes with no interest in a 
theological pattern but in joy of the perusal of 
these revered documents of antiquity. "A pleas- 
ant toil, a toilsome pleasure/' he esteems the 
task, and he is sustained by a hearty assurance 
that there is truth yet to spring forth from the 

ss Smalley, op. cit., p 77. 
* 3 Migne, op. cit, CLXXVI, 617 ff. 
** /&*<!, CLXXVI, 622. 
* fl Smalley, op. cit., p. 84. 

Word. With perfect freedom he may set down 
phrases like these: "We follow the Jews and 
Josephus rather than Bede," or "Men of great 
authority give this opinion; . . . they are mis- 
led/' The historical method may involve his- 
torical speculation and conjecture. How could 
Moses know what happened at Creation? Con- 
ceivably by revelation of the Holy Spirit. Pos- 
sibly, however, the history was handed down 
from Adam, and Moses obtained it by painstak- 
ing research (dihgenter investigare curavit) . 
Andrew makes the most of the fragmentary 
biographical details furnished by Old Testa- 
ment books about their authors. Isaiah is dis- 
tinguished for seven things: his noble race, 
polished eloquence, dignified office, royal con- 
nection, worth of character, constancy, and 
holiness. This approach is far removed from 
Gregory's estimate of the human author of Job 
as of the same importance as the pen that wrote 
the book. It is probable that if Andrew could 
have stepped into the study of Lorenzo Valla, 
he would have been intellectually at home; 
while in the company of his elder contempo- 
rary, Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) , he would 
certainly have been embarrassed.* 9 

D- Tension Between History and Allegory. . 
Bernard's sermons on the Song of Songs exhibit 
the exegesis of edification unalloyed by history. 
With the eloquence of free discourse, they 
gather into a loose relation to the text of the 
book a body of mystical reflections upon God, 
angels, and human life. Allegory prevails, but 
ascetic morality is often, if sometimes tardily, 
introduced. "I thought/' says Bernard, wearied 
with his own lucubrations, "that we should 
quickly traverse this forest shady with allegories 
and reach the level ground of moral meanings." 
Bernard's allegorical exuberance carries him far 
indeed from the embarrassing literal sense of 
the book. The words, "the virgins love thee," 
send him off to elaborate the diverse reasons 
why God is loved by angels, archangels, virtues, 
powers, principalities, dominations, cherubim, 
and seraphim. The phrase, "go forth and pas- 
ture thy kids/' causes him to shed "a torrent of 
tears": the bride is being rebuked and sent 
away in anger under a command to indulge the 
fleshly desires. "But whither are we being 
borne?" he not inappropriately interjects. 30 

Bernard in his exhortation to Pope Eugcnius 
III presents a doctrine of the two swords of 
Luke 22:38. Alcuin had used this passage, giving 
both swords to Charlemagne, not yet emperor, 
for defense of Christendom from without and 
from within. In Bernard the swords are "spir- 

20 On Andrew see Smalley, op. cit,, ch, iv. Miss Smalley 
has used MS sources. 

** Sermons on the Canticles, XVI. 1; XXXIV. 3, 5; 
XXXV. 2. Migne, op. cit., CLXXXIII, 849, 959 ff. 



itual" and "material," and they are wielded 
respectively by the church and by the soldier at 
the bidding (nutum) of the clergy and at the 
command (iussum) of the emperor. 81 This pas- 
sage was to be habitually invoked in support of 
papal claims by Innocent III and his successors. 
Here it may be said that a study of the use of 
scripture passages in asserting papal authority 
through the period from Pope Gregory VII to 
the Reformation would certainly reveal an im- 
portant current in the history of interpretation. 
The texts principally relied upon were the 
"dominical charge" in Matt. 16:17-19; the com- 
mission of Jeremiah, "I have this day set thee 
over the nations and over the kingdoms" (Jer. 
1:10); the two lights set in the firmament at 
creation (Gen. 1:16-18) , of which the sun is the 
papacy and the moon is the secular ruler; and 
the "two swords" passage. The last two repre- 
sent pure allegory. Many other passages were 
employed to give scriptural basis to the papal 
claims. But these interpretations were disputed 
by opponents of the papacy, notably by Dante 
in De Monarchia (ca, 1309) . 

Reference has been made above to the differ- 
ent senses of scripture recognized by our au- 
thors. Guibert de Nogent (d. 1124), in a book 
on the construction of sermons, speaks of the 
four senses as the rules by which every page of 
scripture turns as on so many wheels: 

That is to say: history, which speaks of things 
done; allegory, in which one thing is understood 
by another [ex alio aliud]; tropology, that is, the 
moral way of speaking, in which the ordering of 
morals is treated; anagoge, or the spiritual under- 
standing by which, discussing what is lofty and 
heavenly, we are led to things above. 83 

Hugh of St. Cher wrote: "History tells what 
happened; allegory teaches what is to be under- 
stood; anagogy, what is to be sought after; 
tropology, what is to be done." 88 

The main tension seems to have been be- 
tween allegory and history, and most writers 
were partisans of one or the other of these. 
Joachim of Floris (d. 1202) carried allegory to 
an extreme, presenting a revolutionary doc- 
trine of the church. But the moral sense 
emerged into new prominence in the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries. Even before the Vic- 

**De Consideratione IV. 3. 7; Migne, op. cit, t 
CLXXXII, 776. 

82 Quo Ordine Sermo Fieri Debet. Migne, op. cit., 
CLVI, 25-26. 

** Opera (Venice: Nicolaus Pezzana, 1703), I, 2. The 
mnemonic verses quoted by Nicholas of Lyra, and very 
frequently by later writers, that call to mind this "four- 
horse chariot" (quadriga), as Luther called it, ran thus: 
Litera gesta docet 
quid credas allegoria 
moralis quid agas 
quo tendas anagogia. 

torines, Guibert remarked that the need of the 
age was no longer for allegory but rather for 
tropology, the moral sense. The great com- 
mentators, Peter Comestor (d. 1179?), chief 
author of the Historia Scholastic^ Peter Cantor 
(d. 1197) , and Stephen Langton (d. 1228) , con- 
stitute what Grabmann and Beryl Smalley have 
called the "biblical moral school." The lectures 
of these professors were taken down in short- 
hand and afterward polished, as Beryl Smalley 
shows in her discriminating chapter on the 
three. The Historia Scholastica 3 * is a Bible with 
extensive comments; it was very widely circu- 
lated, and was printed in 1473 at Augsburg. At 
the outset Peter Comestor says: "Holy Scripture 
is God's dining room, where the guests are made 
soberly drunk." 85 The foundation is history, 
which divides into annals, calendars, and 
ephemera (the records of years, months, and 
days) ; the walls are allegory, which makes one 
event the figure of another; the roof is tropol- 
ogy, which from what has been done suggests 
what we ought to do. This passage may be 
compared with the language of Rabanus 
Maurus quoted above. With a similar view 
Langton makes the words, "Thy silver is be- 
come dross" (Isa. 1:22) apply to the work of 
scholars who turn from tropological and moral 
to "curious" questions. 8 * 

E. The Scholastic Age. We are now in the 
age of the universities, the friars, and the great 
Scholastics. Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) taught 
the young Franciscans of Oxford to love and 
labor over the Scriptures. Dominic was himself 
an intense Bible student; and Ray C. Petry has 
shown that Francis of Assisi searched the Scrip- 
tures for testimony of Jesus, while he found 
there also the justification of the Friars Minor. 
Francis uses very effectively the literal sense. 
But Petry in his chapter on "The Last Times 
and the Kingdom of God" exhibits what is 
really the Franciscan appropriation of ana- 
gogy. 87 Certain of the Spiritual Franciscans were 
to carry this eschatological strain, with the aid 
of Joachim, to a fanatical pitch, while others in 
a more literal apocalypticism identified in the 
contemporary scene the enemies of God. At 
Oxford and Paris a sober and rational inter- 
pretation was carried on by Franciscan and 
Dominican professors. We are not here con- 
cerned with the work of the Paris correctors, 
such as William de la Mare and Gerard of 

** Migne, op. cit., CXCVIII, 1053-1722. Hans Vollmer 
has edited Latin and German versions: Materialien zur 
Bibelgeschichte . . . des Mittelalters (Berlin: Weidmann, 
1912-16), II, i, ii. 

s Migne, op. cit., CXCVIII, 1053. 

" Smalley, op. cit., p. 199. 

* 7 Francis of Assisi, Apostle of Poverty (Durham: Duke 
University Press, 1941), chs. iv, v; cf. Ernst Benz, Ecdesia 
Spiritualis (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1934), Part III. 



Huy: but their rather unsuccessful attempts to 
purge the text are evidence of the importance 
of the problem of Bible text in the Scholastic 
age. The chapter general of the Dominicans in 
1256 complained of their lack of success. Roger 
Bacon thought they did more harm than good, 
and at the same time criticized the weakness of 
academic study of Scripture. But the fact is that 
the Scholastics had something of a new scholarly 
power of biblical interpretation; and it is con- 
trary to fact to say that Aristotle crowded the 
Scriptures out of their thoughts. 

It is doubtful whether any theologian has ever 
surpassed Thomas Aquinas in familiarity with 
the language of the Latin Bible. There is a 
legend that he memorized it throughout while 
detained by his brothers from entering the 
Dominican order. In the Summa Theologica, 
before taking up the doctrine of God, he pre- 
sents a doctrine of sacred Scripture. Here he 
examines the question "Whether Scripture has 
more senses than the literal," and after refer- 
ences to Augustine and Gregory, responds (con- 
densed) : 

God is the Author of Holy Scripture. He has given 
a meaning not only to the words but to the things 
they signify, so that the things signified in turn 
signify something else. Primarily, words signify 
things, which is the historical sense; secondarily, 
the things signify other things, and we get the 
spiritual sense The latter is of three sorts. The 
Old Law is allegorically interpreted in the New 
Law, but the interpretation of matters affecting 
Christ and our obligation is tropological, and that 
which deals with the eternal glory is the anagogical 
or celestial sense. The literal sense is that which the 
author intends, but God being the Author, we may 
expect to find in Scripture a wealth of meaning. 88 

Thomas here quotes with approval Augustine's 
statement, "On the literal sense alone can we 
base arguments/' and this principle is habitu- 
ally observed in the Summa. But his Catena 
aurea, or Commentary on the Four Gospels Col- 
lected Out of the Works of the Fathers an 
assemblage of quotations from numerous au- 
thors ranging from Origen to the twelfth- 
century Interlinear Gloss, shows how highly he 
prized the nonliteral senses. The locusts and 
wild honey that nourished John the Baptist 
(Matt. 3:4) point to the fact that his speeches 
were sweet as honey but of short flight, like 
that of locusts, arid his earners hair garment 
represents the church of the Gentiles. In Matt. 
8:20 the foxes and the birds are respectively 
deceitful and proud demons, or (by another 
authority) they signify heretics and Jews. The 
four thousand of Mark 8:9, 20 are men perfect 

38 Part I, question 1, Art. 10. 

** Oxford: James Parker & Co., 1874. 

in the four virtues; the five thousand of Mark 
8:19 are men enslaved to the five senses. Similar 
interpretations abound in the Meditations of 
Thomas, where many Old Testament passages 
are employed to sustain medieval doctrines.* 
For Thomas the teaching of the church is to 
be adhered to "as an infallible and divine 
rule." 41 As a commentator the Angelic Doctor 
too often plays a role of conservative depend- 
ence on less competent minds than his own. 

F. Rashi and Nicholas of Lyra. Resistance 
to allegorical excess seems to have owed much 
to Rashi and his Christian disciples. The age 
of Aquinas produced an anonymous Christian 
commentary on the Song of Songs which follows 
Rashi closely, and except at the very end makes 
no reference to Christ. 42 Rashi was given Chris- 
tian reincarnation in Nicholas of Lyra (d. 
1S40) , a Norman Franciscan and Sorbonne 
doctor. His great commentary, Postillae Per- 
petuae in Vetus et Novum Testamentum, re- 
flects on almost every page of its fifty books the 
opinions of Rashi ("Rabbi Solomon") . Lyra 
makes no profession of novel purpose. He re- 
cites respectfully the now traditional description 
of the four senses, and quotes the passage of 
Aquinas on this topic, to which reference has 
been made. But he labors to bring out the 
historic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek. 
Herman Hailperin, in a study of Rashi's in- 
fluence on Lyra, 48 rates highly his appreciation 
of the nuances of Hebrew and interest in Bible 
customs, in which he followed Rashi. Some- 
times he rejects Rashi's view and goes over his 
head to the Targums. More often he prefers 
Rashi to Jerome or some other Christian author- 
ity. Yet in doctrinal matters Lyra, much more 
than Andrew of St. Victor, stands on guard for 
the Christian tradition. 

It is of interest that the Waldenses, who long 
before Nicholas had taken their stand on the 
Scriptures literally understood as sufficient for 
salvation, and had condemned as "Pharisees" 
the conventionally allegorical commentators 
who supported "idolatry" by their interpreta- 
tions, made considerable use of the Postillae.** 
In this they were followed by the Reformers. 
Lyra calls Rashi the commentator "whose teach- 

*The Meditations has been edited in Latin and 
English by P. D. Mezard and E. C. McEniry (Columbus, 
Ohio: 1940). See pp 37, 63 ff, 154, 438, 482. 

Cf. Hugh Pope, "His Principles of Biblical Interpre- 
tation" in Aelred Whitacre et al, St. Thomas Aquino* 
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1924), pp. 125-39. 

* 2 Smalley, op. tit., p. 262. 

* s "Nicolas de Lyra and Rashi: The Minor Prophets," 
Pashi Anniversary Volume (New York: American Acad- 
emy for Jewish Research, 1941), pp. 115-47. 

** Louis I. Newman, Jewish Influence on Christian 
Reform Movements (New York: Columbia University 
Press, 1925), pp. 74-78, 213-39. 



ing is reported most authentic among modern 
Jews." Luther refers to Lyra as "an excellent 
man, a good Hebraist, and a steadfast Chris- 
tian." * 5 The unknown author of the immortal 

Si Lyra non lyrasset 
Lutherus non saltasset 

oversimplifies the relationship. As Lyra was 
indebted to others than Rashi, so Luther was 
indebted to many interpreters besides Lyra. 
But in both cases the debt to the predecessor 
named was primary. Many sixteenth-century 
commentators besides Luther, humanist, Ro- 
man Catholic, and Protestant, used the Postillae 
with appreciation. 

The way to the Reformation interpretation 
of scripture was led not only by Lyra but by 
the work of Lorenzo Valla (d. 1457) , Gianozzo 
Manetti (d. 1459) , John Wessel Gansfort (d. 
1489), John Colet (d. 1519), Jacques Lefevre 
(d. 1536) , Erasmus (d. 1536) , and other hu- 
manists who by their Greek and Hebrew studies 
laid the foundation for a philological under- 
standing of the Scriptures. The effect of their 
work not always its purpose was to give a 
new prominence to the literal and historical 
sense. By the time of Luther's early commen- 
taries the shackles of tradition were already 

II. The Reformation 

A. Martin Luther. In his Address to the 
German Nobility (1520) Luther vehemently 
denounced the view that the interpretation of 
scripture belongs to the pope alone. It belongs, 
he says in effect, to pious and competent Chris- 
tians. It is, moreover, a task that isjiever com- 
pleted. In the Commentaries on *the Psalms 
(1519-21) he states th* matter thus: 

I came to this opinion, that no man's interpreta- 
tion, (assuming it to be pious) ought to be rejected 
unless by the law of retaliation one chooses to be 
rejected in turn. He is lacking in some things, you 
in more; I see many things missed by Augustine, 
and I know men will see many things that I myself 
do not see. . . . Our life is a beginning and a going 
forward, not a consummation. 46 

Interpretation is thus in a degree fluid, and it 
cannot be held static by ecclesiastical authority. 
"The Church," says Luther, "is a daughter born 
of the Word, not the mother of the Word." * 7 
He many times insists that he is doing nothing 
final either in translation or in interpretation. 

S&mmentliche Werke (Erlaagen: Carl Hender, 1845), 

* Werke (Weimar: Hermann Bohlan, 1892), V, 23. 

* T Lectures on Genesis, 7:16-24. Werke, Weimar edition, 
XLII, 924. 

Yet he is assured and unyielding on the main 
principles by which he is guided, and which 
form the bases of his theology. Thus in his 
Preface to Romans, having stressed the priority 
of faith to works and the Pauline meaning of 
"flesh" as sin and unbelief, he adds: 

Without such an understanding of these words you 
will never understand this letter of St. Paul, or any 
other book of Holy Scripture. Therefore, beware of 
all teachers who use these words in a different 
sense, . . . even Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Origen 
and men like them or above them.* 8 

Luther has praise and blame for many com- 
mentators. He recognizes the indispensable 
service of humanism to interpretation: 

As for me, I am persuaded that without skill in 
literature genuine theology cannot stand, just as 
hitherto in the ruin and prostration of letters it 
too has miserably fallen and been laid low. Indeed 
I see that the remarkable disclosure of the Word 
of God would never have taken place had He not 
first prepared the way by the rediscovery of lan- 
guages and sciences, as by Baptist forerunners. 4 * 

But his reported saying, "The inseparable com- 
panion of Holy Scripture is the Holy Spirit," B0 
reveals what is really the governing, if some- 
what intangible, principle of authority. Again, 
Luther strongly affirms and constantly exempli- 
fies the view that Christ is the center around 
which all Scripture revolves the punctus 
mathematicus sacrae scripturae and that the 
entire Bible has meaning by virtue of, and in 
proportion to, its emphasis upon the gospel of 
Christ. His prefaces to the Old Testament, and 
to its several books, bring out this point clearly, 
and in his commentaries on Genesis, Isaiah, and 
the Psalms we are never long unreminded of it. 
Thus in Ps. 2 "the kings of the earth" are Herod 
and Pilate; Christ speaks of the church in "my 
holy hill of Zion"; the "rod of Iron" is the 
gospel, an opinion which he labors to illustrate 
with allegorical detail. 52 

Luther frequently expresses a preference for 
the grammatico-historical interpretation, or lit- 
eral sense, but it would be a basic error to sup- 
pose that he was always content to follow it. 
Indeed we find him often quite hospitable to 
the stock allegories of the fathers, and fertile 

*s Works of Martin Luther, tr. C. M. Jacobs (Phila- 
delphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1932), VI, 453. Original in 
Luther's Werke, Weimar edition, Deutsche Bible, VII 
(1931), 12. 

* Letter to Eoban Hess, March 29, 1523. Werke, 
Weimar edition, Luthers Briefwechsel, III, 50. 

* Werke, Weimar edition, Tischreden, V, 397 (No. 

**>lbid. t II, 439 (No. 2383). 

a Werke, Weimar edition, V, 47 tL 



in inventing his own. There are sections of his 
commentaries that are surprisingly medieval in 
this respect. In his Lectures on Genesis (1535- 
45) he inserts (at ch. 9) a disquisition on alle- 
gories and his use of them. He had been led, 
he tells us, into allegorical interpretations by 
Origen, Jerome, and Augustine, but finding that 
he was following a vain shadow, began to detest 
allegories. Miintzer and the Anabaptists have 
been wrong in turning everything into allegory. 
Allegories are to be permitted only if they ob- 
serve the analogy of faith. Some of the fathers 
leave out faith; and it is rash impudence and 
ambition to assert papal supremacy on the alle- 
gory of the sun and moon. When Luther here 
adopts from the ancients the view that the ark 
of Noah typifies Christ, with whom we are saved 
from the flood, and points with approval to 
their observation that the ark like the human 
body is six times as long as it is wide, we fear 
that he is still pursuing the "shadow." But he 
sums up his thought on the subject in a lucid 
and revealing statement: 

I have often said what theology was when I 
entered upon this kind of study. They used to say, 
"The letter killeth" (II Cor. 3:6). Therefore I 
disliked Lyra most of all interpreters because he 
followed so diligently the literal meaning. But now, 
in commendation of this very thing, I prefer him to 
almost all interpreters of Scripture. And I admonish 
you with the utmost earnestness, seek to be diligent 
in appraising historical matters. But if ever you 
wish to use allegory, do so observing the analogy of 
faith; that is, accommodate it to Christ, the church, 
faith, and the ministry of the Word. 58 

Despite inconsistencies and traditional and un- 
fruitful interpretations, Luther's powerful mind 
produced a new and vitalizing presentation of 
scripture in which the Old Testament is made 
to support the teaching of the New. In his doc- 
trine of salvation the law, nevertheless, stands 
in dramatic antithesis to the gospel : it convinces 
us of sin, for which the gospel offers forgiveness. 
Thus the whole Bible becomes significant as a 
testimony to those central convictions that he 
regards as the essentials of Christianity. Luther's 
theology dominates his evaluation of the scrip- 
ture books. He feels free to hold certain of 
them in far higher esteem than others. In the 

Werke, Weimar edition, XLII, 877. Luther has here 

Indicated broadly what he means by the "analogy of 

faith," a term employed by Augustine. In Rom, 12-6, 

icatTd TT^V dvoAoyfav Ttj$ TrfcrrewQ, certainly a different 

sense is intended than that understood in hermeneutics 

In the latter the term was used as a cable by which 

interpretation could be moored to orthodox belief. On 

the progress of Luther's thought concerning the senses of 

scripture there are some valuable pages in J. M. Ren, 

Luther's German Bible (Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book 

Concern, 1934), pp. 124 ff. 

New Testament itself he has little use for 
James and Revelation, since they fail to supply 
corroboration of the gospel as he understands 
it. According to a passage in the Table Talk, 
it was his habit to read the Bible through twice 
a year. 84 At any rate, he was completely familiar 
with all of it. With great readiness he can 
match passage with passage. His sermons flash 
with insights that are the fruits of eager study 
and reveal the resources of scripture for the 
Christian life. 

B. John Calvin. Calvin's masterly knowl- 
edge of the language and thought of the Bible 
is the key to his power as a theologian. His 
commentaries form the major portion of his 
writings; and virtually all his treatises proceed 
by a series of references to scripture passages. 
He omitted from formal exposition only one 
book of the New Testament and eight of the 
Old. He makes some use of every scripture book, 
though he almost completely neglects the Song 
of Songs and Revelation. Of the latter he is 
reported to have said that he was totally unable 
to find its meaning. 56 In the Institutes he quotes 
the New Testament 3,098 times, the Old 1,755 
times. 56 Henri Clavier, in a careful examination 
of Calvin's biblicism, finds a distinction between 
the Word and the Scripture. The Word is God's 
communication of himself: in the Scripture it 
becomes precise. 57 For Calvin, as for Aquinas, 
"the Author of Scripture is God": he affirms 
its "complete credit and authority." He would 
like to assert the inerrancy of the Scriptures, 
but in fact admits minor errors. In Eph. 4:8 
Paul misquotes Ps. 68:18, even seeming to re- 
verse the psalmist's meaning. Calvin argues that 
the apostle is not repeating the words but pur- 
suing the matter itself, and he uses other verses 
of the psalm to enforce his point. 58 From Ps. 
8:6 and Heb. 2:7 "we see with what freedom 
the apostles permitted themselves to quote 
scripture passages. 59 The apostles were not so 
scrupulous (in quotations) as to decline to 
accommodate their language to the unin- 
formed. 80 Praiseworthy as is the teaching of 
II Peter, its inferior style may be explained on 
the ground that the apostle in his old age 
dictated it to some disciple.* 1 Classical authofs 
are employed to give perspective on the lan- 

* Tischreden, II, 244 <No. 1877). 

88 lean Bodin, Method for the Easy Comprehension of 
History, tr. Beatrice Reynolds (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1945), p. 291. 

"Henri Clavier, Etudes sur le calvinisme (Paris: 
Fischbacher, 1936), p. 87. 

*ilbid., p. 108. 

** Opera, Corpus Reformatorum (Brunsvig: C. A. 
Schwitschke, 1863), LI, 194. 

**Ibid., XXXI, 92. 

., LV, 159. On Heb. 11:21. 



guage of scripture. For example, on KocXou epyou 
in I Tim. 3:1 he remarks: 

I doubt not that lie alludes to the ancient Greek 
proverb, often quoted by Plato, SucrKoAoc TCC KocXd, 
which means in Greek, "Those things that are beau- 
tiful (pulchra) are also arduous and difficult." 62 

Thus, he is sometimes led, though not willingly, 
to the view that it is not the letter of scripture, 
but the substance of doctrine in it, that is 
verbum Dei. His oft-quoted designation of the 
apostles as "authentic amanuenses of the Holy 
Spirit," 6<} and his statement that the Scriptures 
are "given to us by the very mouth of God" 6A 
must be read in the light of his commentaries, 
which exhibit no such assumption of verbal in- 
fallibility as these words seem to imply. The 
Bible authors are inspired indeed; they are in- 
spired personalities writing out of their con- 
scious experiences and in historic settings that 
are significant to the interpreter. 

In his handling of scripture Calvin habitually 
draws together both Testaments. So much is 
this the case that many expounders of his 
thought have overlooked his repeated affirma- 
tions of a progressive revelation in the Bible. 
God, Calvin atgucs, has employed an order and 
economy in dispensing his covenant of mercy, 
making additional revelations "from day to 
day." The promise to Adam was as a feeble 
spark; the light enlarged in course of time until 
the coming of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, 
who illumined the whole world/ 17 Calvin some- 
times represents Bible writers as accommodating 
their messages to the mental capacities of their 
original readers. Thus Moses in Gen. 1:16 im- 
plies that the moon is next in size to the sun 
among the heavenly bodies. Astronomy, in deny- 
ing this, is not to be repiobated, nor did Moses 
mean to condemn that admirable science. But 
he was a teacher of uneducated people, and 
descended to the level of their understanding. 
Meanwhile the splendor of moonlight should 
teach us the beneficence of God. fl<J Calvin pre- 
sents at length the evidence of "the superior 
excellence of the New Testament over the 

Ibid., LII, 279. 

** Institutes, IV. 8. 9. 

* Ibid , I. 7. 5. But compare his Homilies on 1 Samuel, 
Homily 42, where prophets and pastors in the church are 
referred to as "the very mouth of God." Opera, XXIX, 

** Institutes, II 10. 20; 11. 2-5; cf. P. T. Fuhrmann, 
God-Centered Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub- 
lishing House, 1942), p. 84. 

fl Opera, XXIII, 22. There is a very similar passage in 
Aquinas (Summa Theologica, Part I, question 68, Art. 
3 ) : "But it is to be borne in mind that Moses was speak- 
ing to a rude people [rudi populo loquebatur] and, to 
condescend to their weak capacity, he set forth to them 
only what was clearly apparent to their senses [sensui 
manifeste apparuit]," 

Old." 67 But he links the two intimately, and 
sometimes overstates the Christian element in 
the Old Testament, while on the other hand 
he sometimes employs the harsher passages of 
the early books to the detriment of the doctrine 
of grace. 68 Furthermore, he uses typology to 
mark the relationship between the Old Cove- 
nant and the New; for instance, in making the 
land of Canaan a figure of the eternal inherit- 
ance. 69 Apart from this discovery of "types" of 
the gospel in the rites and narratives of the 
Old Testament, he is firm in his avoidance of 
nonliteral meanings. Where it is necessary to 
explain a manifest allegory in the text, he 
handles the matter with circumspect precision, 
and minimi/es the allegorical element. In his 
commentary on Galatians he points out that 
ever since the early fathers, men have by alle- 
gory "changed into curious shapes the sacred 
Word/' Here he states that "the true meaning 
of scripture is the natural and obvious mean- 
ing"; to it we ought to adhere firmly. Paul, 
when in Gal. 4:22-25 he allegorizes Gen. 16, 
does not imply that Moses wrote with the pur- 
pose that his history should be turned into 
allegory. 70 Calvin objects to the traditional 
"frigid" interpretation that would identify the 
four chariots of Zech. 6:1-3 with the four Gos- 
pels. 71 On the use of Isaiah's Trisagion (6:3) as 
an argument to quell the Arians, he remarks 
stiffly: "I should prefer to employ firmer evi- 
dence.*' 72 

In the preface to his first commentary 
(Romans, 1539) , Calvin reminds his friend 
Grynaeus of a conversation in which the two 
had discussed the qualities needed in an exegete. 
They had agreed that these were clearness and 
brevity, and that it was "his particular duty to 
exhibit the spirit of the writer/' Calvin was not 
forgetful of these principles. "Brevity" is a 
relative term, but though his commentaries are 
extensive, they are written with economy of 
language. What is attempted is a searching out 
of the meaning of the text, as the scripture 
writer understood it. The resources of human- 
istic learning are employed, historical data are 
freely used, and at points of difficulty the 
opinions of earlier commentators are sifted. 
Doctrinal interest is keen, and we are made 
aware of what has been referred to above as 
the "analogy of faith/' For Calvin this calls 

7 Institutes II. 11. 12. The treatment of this point by 
Rupert E. Davies, The Problem of Authority in the Con- 
tinental Reformers (London: Epworth Press, 1946), pp. 
Ill ff., tends to minimize the differences noted by Calvin. 

68 See e.g., his Commentary on Joshua f 10:18; Opera* 
XXV, 502. 

" Institutes II. 11. 1-4. 

Opera, L, 237. 

Ibid., XLIV, 202. 

Ibid., XXXVI, 129, 



forth a great emphasis upon the scripture testi- 
mony to the sovereignty of God, and an exag- 
geration of the arguments for predestination. 
But this does not eclipse the objective of a clear 
understanding of the writer's meaning. In order 
to appreciate Calvin's commentaries one does 
not have to subscribe to his entire theology. 
Indeed, F. A. G. Tholuck remarks that he "is 
by no means solicitous to insist, in all cases, and 
with zeal, upon that meaning which tends most 
to the confirmation of Christian truths." 7S We 
may say that he follows the clues like a detec- 
tive, until he is assured that he possesses the 
writer's secret. Philological and other aids are 
subordinated to the one purpose, the discovery 
and elucidation of the message. This is of course 
presented as in essence a divine message, with a 
bearing upon all history, and upon the reader's 
life. The task that he sets himself is by no means 
merely a verbal exercise. He keeps in view the 
book as a whole, the Scriptures as a whole, and 
to some degree the body of human thought. He 
can sum up the teaching of Romans in a sen- 
tence: "There is only one righteousness for 
men, the mercy of God in Christ; and this 
offered through the gospel is received by 
faith." 7i But if necessary, he will wrestle with 
a word through three paragraphs. He believes 
that at the best a "partial ignorance" will re- 
main. Besides, no accumulation of rational 
argument without "the inward testimony of the 
Holy Spirit" can accredit the Scriptures to the 
reader. 78 It is "the spirit of the writer" that is 
to be discovered, and the Holy Spirit that in- 
spired him to write must guide the inquirer. In 
one place Calvin remarks that the Holy Spirit 
is not mistakenly called "a spirit of discernment 
[discretionis]" 7e If we bear in mind the sweep 
of his conception, we may apply to Calvin's 
interpretation of scripture the canon of J. A. 
Ernesti : "Interpretation is the art of teaching 
the real sentiment contained in any form of 
words, or of effecting that another may derive 
from them the same idea that the writer in- 
tended to convey." " 

C. Other Reformation Interpreters. On the 
Continent, scripture commentaries were nu- 
merous in the sixteenth century. Those of 
Melanchthon, Bucer, Zwingli, Oecolampadius, 
and Bullinger won the measured approval of 
Calvin. He thought Melanchthon too selective, 
Bucer too elaborate, Zwingli too discursive, 

T * "Calvin as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture" (1831), 
in Calvin, Commentary on Joshua, tr. Henry Beveridge 
(Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1854), p. 350. 

Opera, XLIX, 1. 

rs Institutes I. 7. 4. 

Opera, XLVIII, 401. On Acts 17:11. 

IT Principles of Biblical Interpretation, tr. C. H, Terrot 
(Edinburgh: Thomas Clark, 1832), I, 6. 

Oecolampadius and Bullinger nearer to his own 
ideal. 78 The prodigiously productive pen of 
Matthias Flacius, in his Key to Scripture (1567) , 
carried forward Lutheran biblical scholarship 
and urged fresh labor on the historical mean- 
ing of the text. 79 In England and Scotland the 
vernacular Bible flourished but few commen- 
taries were written in the sixteenth century. 
Luther's views were reflected in Tyndale's pref- 
aces. In a treatise of 1528 Tyndale states that 
"Scripture hath but one sense, which is the 
literal sense," and that the explanation of its 
"proverbs, similitudes, riddles, and allegories" 
falls within literal interpretation. 80 Anglicans 
of the period generally adopt this conception. 
Jewel's (posthumous) Commentary on I and H 
Thessalonians offers a good example of this 
method. In his Treatise on Holy Scripture 
(1570) Jewel stresses the simplicity of most of 
the Bible and its unique instructional value 
even for untrained minds. 81 William Whitaker, 
in a learned treatise, reiterates Tyndale's posi- 
tion just noted, and enforces the reformers' 
contention for the unique authority and suffi- 
ciency of the Scriptures. 82 Negatively applying a 
rigorous doctrine of scripture authority, 
Thomas Cartwright and the Elizabethan Puri- 
tans rejected all nonscriptural elements in 
Anglican worship and polity. Hooker assailed 
this position, and advanced the claims of reason. 
He holds that the perfection of scripture is 
limited by the purpose for which it is given. 
Not every act which it does not enjoin is sin. 
Hooker is dissatisfied with Calvin's teaching 
that scripture is authenticated only by the in- 
ward witness of the Spirit: too much is thereby 
left to private waywardness. We should test by 
reason what we are taught by the Spirit. 88 In his 
view that church polity is not prescribed in the 
Scriptures, and therefore mutable, Hooker is on 
the same ground as Luther: his subjection of 
interpretation to "reason" would have alarmed 
Luther and links him with later critical inter- 
preters. 8 * * 

78 Preface to Romans cited above, and letter to Viret, 
May 19, 1540. 

T Clavis Scripturae Sacrae, Antwerp, 1567; cf. Wilhelm 
Preger's chapter on this work, Matthias Flacius Jllyrtcus 
und seine Zeit (Erlangen: Theodor Biasing, 1859), pp 

80 Doctrinal Treatises of William Tyndale. Parker 
Society Publications (Cambridge: University Press, 1848), 
XLII, 304. 

* Works of John Jewel, Vol. IV. Parker Society Pub- 
locations (Cambridge: University Press, 1850), XXVI, 

82 A Disputation on the Holy Scripture, 1588. Tr. Wil- 
liam Fitzgerald, Parker Society Publications (Cambridge: 
University Press, 1849), XLV. See especially p. 405. 

88 Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity II. 4; III. 7, 

84 A selected bibliography on the history of biblical 
interpretation will be found on p 141. Editors. 





I. The Rise of Biblical Criticism (ca. 1650-1800) 

A. Textual and Philological Research 

B. The Rationalistic Principle of Interpretation 

C. The Beginnings of Literary Analysis 

D. The Deists' Explanations of Jesus 

E. The Historical Approach to the New Testa- 

F. A New Appreciation of Hebrew Poetry 

II. Literary and Historical Achievements (1800- 

A. The Search for the "Jesus of History" 

B. The Graf-Wellhausen School of Old Testa- 
ment Criticism 

While Luther and Calvin in their respective 
ways approached the biblical text with a free- 
dom and a critical acumen that were excep- 
tional for their time, they did not concern them- 
selves primarily with the literary and historical 
problems which are related to the scriptural 
documents themselves. Although the Protestant 
Reformation spurred in every land an unprece- 
dented interest in the Bible, the dogmatic in- 
tolerance of the post-Reformation period was 
not favorable to the development of biblical 
studies. Energies of the Protestant divines were 
diverted into struggles for survival, as in France, 
or were spent in the most bitter controversies 
over doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and political mat- 
ters, as in Switzerland, the Netherlands, the 
German states, England, and Scotland. In coun- 
tries dominated by Roman Catholic power the 
canons of the Council of Trent (1546) made 
it clear that any interpretation of scripture had 
to be tightly fitted into the Procrustean bed of 
the official dogma. 

Ever since the early days of the Renaissance, 
however, revolutionary ideas were in the air, 
and their force was bound to meet and ulti- 

C. New Sources of Knowledge 

D. Modern Methods of Interpretation 

III. Biblical Exegesis at the Mid-Century (1925- 

A. Trends in Old Testament Study 

B. New Testament Criticism in Transition 

C. Toward the Formulation of a Biblical The- 

D. Discussions on Hermeneutics 

IV. Selected Bibliography 

mately to strike at the authority of the Bible 
itself. In the long run their impact had not only 
a destructive but also an unexpectedly construc- 
tive effect. It handed back the Bible to man and 
taught him how to recognize its uniqueness and 
its relevance. 

/. The Rise of Biblical Criticism (ca. 1650-1800) 

Three cultural developments have ushered 
in the modern period of biblical interpretation. 

In the first place, the Ptolemaic conception of 
the universe, which had been quite satisfactorily 
harmonized with the biblical cosmogony, was 
undermined by the geographical discoveries of 
the Portuguese and others, and also by the 
astronomical observations of Copernicus (1473- 
1543) , whose theory of the heliocentricity of 
the planetary movements was condemned by the 
pope as contrary to scripture. The various con- 
tributions of Giordano Bruno (1550-1600) , 
Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo (1564-1642) 
led in due course to the theory of universal 
gravitation as formulated by Newton (1642- 
1727) . Thus, the natural scientists turned away 
from biblical teaching, and biblical interpreters 



could no longer claim with intellectual integrity 
that the Bible provided a scientifically accurate 
picture of the cosmos. 

In the second place, the humanists' boldness 
in investigating the text, composition, and 
authorship of the ancient documents, as initi- 
ated by Lorenzo Valla's devastating work on the 
so-called "Donation of Constantine" (1440), 
received a new impulse from the epistemological 
reflections of philosophers like Bacon (1561- 
1626) and Descartes (1596-1650) . The use of 
the experimental method, together with the 
dawn of rationalism, soon influenced the minds 
of the biblical interpreters themselves. 

Jn the third place, the very intransigency of 
Lutheran and Calvinistic scholasticism produced 
exegetical reactions like those of Armmius 
(1560-1609), Grotius (1583-1645), Calixtus 
(1586-1656), and others, who in various ways 
doubted that the dogmatic orthodoxy of their 
time was based upon a correct appreciation of 
the scriptural meaning. Likewise, the mysticism 
of Bohrne (1575-1624), the pietism of Spener 
(1635-1705) , together with the stress laid by 
Cocceius (1603-69) on the progressive character 
of revelation, these and other factors played 
their respective parts in unshackling the minds 
of Protestant theologians from the strait jacket 
of bibliolatry. For more than three centuries 
thereafter, scholars have wrestled with the 
numerous problems of text, composition, 
sources, date, and occasion of the biblical books. 
Such investigations may have appeared at times 
to be irrelevant; yet they were indispensable to 
the task of interpretation. 

A. Textual and Philological Research. The 
emergence of the new era was marked by first 
attempts at discovering the exact wording and 
meaning of the scriptural text. In 1538, Elijah 
ben Asher (Elias Levita) had shocked the 
scholarly world by proving conclusively that the 
vowel points and accents of the Hebrew Bible 
were of considerably later date than the fixation 
of the consonantal text, none of them earlier 
than the sixth century A.D. 1 Several Protestant 
Hebraists, such as William Fulke (1538-89), 
John Lightfoot (1602-75), and John Owen 
(1616-83), accepted the thesis of ben Asher as 
valid and yet, like him, they continued to be- 
lieve in the verbal inspiration of both Masoretic 
text and pointing. Others, such as Johannes 
Piscator (1546-1625) and Johannes Buxtorf the 
Elder (1564-1629) , vainly tried to defend the 
high antiquity of the pointing. With courage 
and integrity, however, Louis Cappel (1585- 
1658) , against the strong opposition of his co- 
religionists, succeeded in proving not only that 
the chronological conclusions of ben Asher were 
correct, but also that the consonantal text itself 
iMassdreth hammassSreth (Venice, 1538). 

was far from reliable. 2 On the ground of his 
study of the Qfre and K e thibh y of the Oriental 
and Occidental texts, of the Samaritan Penta- 
teuch, of the Septuagint version, of the Old 
Testament quotations in the New Testament, 
and so forth, Cappel deserves to be called the 
first textual critic of the Old Testament; in 
addition, his work considerably influenced the 
literary critics of subsequent generations. 

A similar type of investigation was taking 
place at the same time in the field of New Testa- 
ment scholarship. The first editions of the Greek 
text by Erasmus (1516), Ximenes ("Complu- 
tensian," 1522) , and Simon de Colines (1534) 
revealed the fact that the various manuscripts 
differed widely among themselves. Robert 
Estienne, in his third edition of the Greek text 
(1551), collated for the first time not only 
variants from the fourth (1527) and fifth 
(1535) editions of Erasmus' Greek New Testa- 
ment, together with the marginal readings of 
the Complutensian, but also the witness of 
fifteen manuscripts. In addition, Theodore of 
Beza utilized in his numerous editions of the 
Greek text (1565, etc.) the witness of several 
ancient versions, and Lucas Brugensis (1580) 
noted the importance of the citations of the 
New Testament found in the patristic litera- 
ture. The wide acceptance of the Textus Re- 
ceptus (an expression which in England referred 
to the 1550 edition of Estienne and in conti- 
nental Europe to the 1663 edition of the Elzevir 
brothers) somewhat retarded the development 
of New Testament textual criticism, but the 
appearance in England of the Codex Alexan- 
drinus (1628) provided a new impulse, and 
the contributions of Brian Walton (1657) , 
Etienne Courcelles (1658), John Fell (1675), 
and especially John Mill (1707) , prepared the 
ground for scientific attempts to recapture as 
accurately as possible the wording of the origi- 
nal text. 

The development of textual criticism, which 
raised in the fields of both Old and New Testa- 
ments problems of a specific and quite unrelated 
nature, profoundly impressed the minds of 
biblical interpreters, and not only destroyed 
belief in verbal inspiration but also opened the 
way to an empirical investigation into the 
authorship, date, composition, and meaning of 
each of the biblical books. 

B. The Rationalistic Principle of Interpreta- 
tion.- It is significant that an independent ap- 
proach to the interpretation of the Bible was 
initiated not by biblical interpreters them- 

2 See especially Arcanum Punctationis Revelatum 
(Leiden, 1623); Diatriba de Veris et Antiquis Hebroeorum 
Literis (Amsterdam, 1645); Cntica Sacra (Paris, 1650); 
Epistola Apologetica (Saumur, 1651). 



selves, but by political philosophers like Hobbes 
and Spinoza. 

In his Leviathan (1651) , Thomas Hobbes im- 
plied that the Bible was not the Word of God 
but merely contained the record of some men 
who had been inspired by God. He wrote: 

When God speaketh to man, it must be either 
immediately; or by mediation of another man, to 
whom he had formerly spoken by himself immedi- 
ately. How God speaketh to a man immediately, 
may be understood by those well enough, to whom 
he hath so spoken; but how the same should be 
understood by another, is hard, if not impossible to 
know. For if a man pretend to me, that God hath 
spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and 
I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what 
argument he can produce, to oblige me to beleeve 
it. ... For to say that God hath spoken to him in 
the Holy Scripture, is not to say God hath spoken 
to him immediately, but by mediation of the 
Prophets, or of the Apostles, or of the Church, in 
such manner as he speaks to all other Christian 
men. . . . How then can he, to whom God hath 
never revealed his Wil immediately (saving by the 
way of natural reason) know when he is to obey, or 
not to obey his Word, delivered by him, that sayes 
he is a Prophet? 8 

In using such language, Hobbes was in fact 
denying the theological authority of Scripture 
as it was then understood, and he was also 
formulating a rationalistic and subjective prin- 
ciple of interpretation. He still maintained that 
the canon referred to "the Rules of Christian 
life" (ch. xxxiii), but he was interested more 
in the relationship which should exist between 
the Bible and "a Christian Commonwealth" 
than in the biblical basis of Christian faith. 
However, the exegesis of Hobbes was often 
penetrating, as revealed, for instance, by his 
analysis of faith and obedience in their relation 
to salvation (ch. xliii) or by his statement 
that the immortality of the soul is a category 
of grace and not of nature (ch. xliv) . On liter- 
ary and historical matters he displayed a cer- 
tain degree of independence when he ex- 
pressed skepticism over the Mosaic authorship 
of the Pentateuch in its present form (ch. 
xxxiii) ; but on the whole he was traditionally 
conservative. "I see not . . . any reason to 
doubt, but that the Old, and New Testament, 
as we have them now, are the true Registers of 
those things, which were done and said by the 
Prophets, and Apostles." 4 

Baruch Spinoza, in his famous Tractatus 
Theologico-PoUticus (1670), attempted to lib- 
erate the field of philosophical endeavor from 
the claims of theologians and to examine crit- 

8 Reprinted from ed. of 1651 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1909), pp. 287-88. 
*Ibid. t p. 298. 

ically the way in which Christian dogmatists 
used the Bible in order to bolster their doctrinal 

I grant that they are never tired of professing 
their wonder at the profound mysteries of Holy 
Writ; still I cannot discover that they teach any- 
thing but speculations of Platonists and Aristo- 
telians, to which (in order to save their credit for 
Christianity) they have made Holy Writ conform; 
. . . showing conclusively, that never even in sleep 
have they caught a glimpse of Scripture's Divine 
nature. . . . Their belief in the Bible is a formal 
assent rather than a living faith. 5 

Thereupon, Spinoza pleaded for a right under- 
standing of Scripture, which cannot be obtained 
without a careful examination and close criti- 
cism of the text, and is identical with our nat- 
ural understanding. He concluded, "I found 
nothing taught expressly by Scripture, which 
does not agree with our understanding. ... I 
became thoroughly convinced that the Bible 
leaves reason absolutely free." a In order to 
grasp the thought of the Bible, the interpreter 
must look at any biblical book exactly as a 
naturalist observes the phenomena of nature, 
and when he has obtained every possible bit of 
information concerning its date, authorship, 
composition, occasion, and purpose of writing, 
he must then proceed to seek the sense of the 
words themselves without asking whether or 
not they express an acceptable truth. Man must 
listen to Scripture rather than appeal to it. 

Although Spinoza's strictly rationalistic pre- 
suppositions constitute obvious limitations to 
his exegetical method and achievements, one 
must admit that a great many of his reflections 
are still valid in our time. Indeed, some of his 
remarks, such as those on the characteristics of 
Hebrew expression, and on the importance of 
understanding Hebrew manners of speech in 
order to interpret correctly not only the Old 
Testament but also the New Testament, are 
not yet fully appreciated. 

Like Hobbes, Spinoza discussed freely the 
Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; he also 
examined objectively the literary incoherencies, 
historical contradictions, and especially the 
chronological difficulties of Genesis. But he was 
not merely a rationalistic exegete. 

Those who look upon the Bible as a message 
sent down by God from Heaven to men, will doubt- 
less cry out that I have committed the sin against 
the Holy Ghost because I have asserted that the 
Word of God is faulty, mutilated, tampered with, 
and inconsistent; that we possess it only in frag- 
ments, and that the original of the covenant which 

The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza, tr. R. H, 
M. Elwes (London: George Bell & Sons, 1883), I, 7-8. 
ZbtU, I, 9. 



God made with the Jews has been lost. However, 
I have no doubt that a little reflection will cause 
them to desist from their uproar: for not only 
reason but the expressed opinions of prophets and 
apostles openly proclaim that God's eternal Word 
and covenant, no less than true religion, is Divinely 
inscribed in human hearts, that is, in the human 
mind, and that this is the true original of God's 
covenant, stamped with His own seal, namely, the 
idea of Himself, as it were, with the image of His 
Godhood. 7 

One may detect a certain element of philo- 
sophical naivete* and of theological shallowness 
in such a statement, but one must recognize at 
the same time that there is in it no trace of 
prejudice or hostility. 

C. The Beginnings of Literary Analysis. Four 
years after the publication of Leviathan there 
appeared anonymously a pamphlet called Prae- 
adamitae (1655) , in which the bold thesis was 
presented that mankind had been created long 
before Adam, and that the Pentateuch was the 
work of more than one author. Isaac de la 
Peyrere, who later acknowledged authorship, 
was arrested by the Inquisition, and his book 
was publicly burned. But his ideas were not 
forgotten. In the subsequent generation the 
French Oratorian, Richard Simon, became the 
true father of biblical criticism. Theologically 
conservative, Simon did not attack the tradi- 
tional views of revelation, but in a series of 
scholarly treatises 8 he applied to the whole of 
Scripture the hermeneutic principles of Spinoza, 
and he claimed the right to investigate the 
Bible as one looks at any other literary piece 
of the ancient world. 

None can doubt but that the truths contained 
in the Holy Scripture are infallible and of Divine 
authority; since they proceed immediately from 
God, who in this has onely made use of the minis- 
try of Men to be his Interpreters So there is no per- 
son either Jew or Christian, who does not acknowl- 
edge that the Scripture being the pure word of God, 
is at the same time the first principle and foundation 
of Religion. But as Men have been the Depositories 
of these sacred Books, as well as all others, and their 
first Originals have been lost, it was in some sort 
impossible, but that there must needs happen some 
changes, as well by reason of the length of time, 
as the carelessness of Transcribers. 9 

Thus, the study of the additions or corrections 
which may have been made in the original 

t Ibid., I, 165. 

*Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Paris, 1678); 
Histoire critique du texte du Nouveau Testament (Rot- 
terdam, 1689); Histoire critique des prindpaux commen- 
tateurs du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam, 1689); and 
Nouvelles observations sur le texte et les versions du 
Nouveau Testament (Paris, 1695). 

A Critical History of the Old Testament (London: 
Jacob Tonson, 1682), pp. 1-2. 

writings is legitimate, although Simon insisted 
that these "alterations ... are of as great 
Authority as the rest of the Text," and that 
"Spinoza has shown his ignorance, or rather 
malice in crying down the Authority of the 
Pentateuch, by reason of some alterations . . . 
therein, without considering the quality of the 
Authors of these alterations." 10 

Simon's purpose was mainly to study the Bible 
with objectivity. "As for the Writers of our 
times, whether Catholic or Protestant, I have 
found none that are wholly free from preju- 
dice." Although he was not strictly speaking a 
biblical interpreter, he considerably influenced 
subsequent exegetes, and many of his views 
have been vindicated. For instance, he con- 
cluded rightly that the Old Testament did not 
receive its present form until after the Exile, 
and he defended the Hellenistic idiom of the 
New Testament against the attacks of the Greek 

The name of Richard Bentley deserves men- 
tion, for his Dissertations upon the Epistles of 
Phalaris (1699) taught biblical scholars how to 
apply with the strictest method the principle of 
internal evidence the principle according to 
which characteristics of a document are induced 
from the observation of its contradictions, 
chronological allusions, literary inconsistencies, 
and the like. That principle had already been 
employed, perhaps unwittingly, by Vitringa in 
his Observationes sacrae (1683) , and received 
notoriety when Henning Witter separated the 
two stories of creation in Gen. 1-2 by recogniz- 
ing the presence of repetitions and contradic- 
tions within the two chapters, and the use of 
different names for designating the deity (see 
article "The Growth of the Hexateuch," pp. 
188-90) . 

The same observation on the alternation 
of the names YHWH and Elohim was one of 
the clues which led the physician Jean Astruc 
to distinguish in Genesis two main sources, two 
secondary sources, and the traces of about 
twelve other documents. 11 Although many of 
Astruc's hypotheses were later abandoned, he 
must receive credit for initiating the documen- 
tary theory of Pentateuchal composition. 

In spite of his claims to originality, Johann 
Eichhorn 12 was dependent upon Astruc's discov- 
eries, 13 and probably also upon the lectures of 

10 Ibid., preface. 

11 Conjectures sur les mdmoires originaux dont il parott 
que Moyse s'est sewi pour composer le livre de la Genese 
(Bruxelles- Fricx, 1753). The book appeared anony- 

13 "Ueber Mosis Nachrichten von der Noachischen 
Fluth," Repertorium filr Biblische und Morgenlandische 
Litteratur, V (1779), 188. 

13 See discussion of Adolphe Lods, "Astruc et la critique 
biblique de son temps," Revue d'Histoire et de 
ophie Religieuses, IV (1924), 222 ff, 



Johann Michaelis, his own teacher at Gottingen. 
Nevertheless, Eichhorn's work was epoch-making 
in the field of literary criticism. 14 At the same 
time, Johann Semler, who was not only a liter- 
ary critic but also a perceptive and extremely 
versatile historian, recognized the historical na- 
ture of the development of the canon, 15 and 
anticipated the historical method of the nine- 
teenth century by insisting on the importance of 
circumstantial environment for the correct exe- 
gesis of the biblical books. 

D. The Deists' Explanations of Jesus. Mean- 
while, some of the English deists had attempted 
to explain the life and teaching of Jesus accord- 
ing to their views of "natural religion." Thomas 
Woolston (1670-1733) dismissed many of the 
miracle narratives as "most romantick tales." 
His purpose was clearly stated: "I will shew, 
that the Miracles of healing all manner of 
bodily Diseases, which Jesus was justly famed 
for, are none of the proper Miracles of the Mes- 
siah, nor are they so much as a good Proof of 
Jesus's divine Authority to found and introduce 
a Religion into the World." 16 His comments 
on the resurrection narratives anticipated the 
rationalistic interpretations of Hermann Samuel 
Reimarus, whose work was first published by 
Lessing as Fragments des wolfenbuttelschen 
Ungenannten in 1774-78. Lessing himself in 
Nathan der Weise (1779) sought to be objec- 
tive and made pertinent remarks on the oral 
tradition which preceded the written Gospels, 
but he did not penetrate very far in his attempts 
to understand "the religion of Christ" as op- 
posed to "the Christian religion." Many of the 
exegetical treatises of this period reflect the age 
of the Enlightenment, when faith was deemed 
to be irreconcilable with reason. It would be 
wrong to assume however that all the interpre- 
ters of the eighteenth century were representa- 
tives of the deistic and rationalistic trends. 

E. The Historical Approach to the New Tes- 
tament. Already in 1730 Johann Wettstein, 
who had been under the influence of Richard 
Bentley in Cambridge, published anonymously 
his Prolegomena ad Novi Testament! graeci edi- 
tionem accuratissimam (Amsterdam, 1730) , and 
finally the Greek text of the New Testament 
(Amsterdam, 1751-52) . In addition to his sig- 
nificant contribution to textual criticism, he 
expressed in his Libelli ad Crisin atque Inter- 
pretationem Novi Testamenti brilliant views 
on the importance of the historical environ- 
ment for the correct understanding of Jesus and 
of the apostles. He hel,d that scriptural inter- 
pretation should always respect the thinking 

i* Einleitung ins Alte Testament (Leipzig, 1770-73). 

15 Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Canon 
(Halle, 1771-76). 

lf A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Saviour (6th cd.; 
London: Printed for the Author, 1729), p. 7. 

habits and the linguistic peculiarities of writers 
contemporary with the authors of the books 
under investigation, and that the exegesis of the 
Gospels is greatly helped by the study of the 
rabbinical literature. 

Like Wettstein, J. A. Bengel was a historical 
interpreter. The influence of Pietism had made 
him reject the wooden exegesis of dogmatic 
orthodoxy, but he was not a rationalist. He 
attempted to penetrate to the human warmth 
and the inner life of the biblical writers them- 
selves. His Gnomon Novi Testamenti in quo 
ex nativa verborum vi simplicitas, profunditas, 
concinnitaSf saltibritas sensuum coelestium in- 
dicate (1742), which influenced John Wesley's 
Notes on the New Testament (1755) , is a work 
of merit based on strict textual and philological 
research and animated by a profound devotion 
to Christian faith. 

F. A New Appreciation of Hebrew Poetry. 
While the seventeenth-century scholastics 
looked at the Bible only from a dogmatic point 
of view and most of the eighteenth-century exe- 
getes were concerned chiefly with matters of 
text, literary composition, and rationalistic ex- 
planations of scripture, a few men began to 
realize that a great deal of the Old Testament 
was written in a poetic style, and that an exe- 
getical method which might be adequate for 
the prose sections of the Bible should be con- 
sidered inadequate for the interpretation of 
the poetic books. 

As early as 1753, Robert Lowth, bishop of 
London, opened a new path in this hitherto 
neglected field with his De Sacra Poesi Hebrae- 
orum* 1 * Although Lowth may conceivably have 
been prejudiced in his approach by a profound 
knowledge of Greek and Latin poetry, he 
grasped amazingly well not only the technical 
aspects of Hebrew prosody, especially the use 
of parallelism, but also the spirit of the Hebrew 
poetic idiom. He appreciated "the sublime of 
[its] passion"; he recognized "the peculiar char- 
acters of the different prophets"; 18 in brief, he 
led the way to the historical concreteness which 
characterized biblical exegesis subsequently. 

It was Johann Gottfried von Herder, never- 
theless, who made in this domain the most out- 
standing contribution, 19 for he showed that the 
Hebrew tongue was essentially a poetic medium 
of expression and that even the so-called prose 
books of the Bible had to be read as poetically 
written. His analysis of the traditions of Genesis 
or of the story of Jonah, in this respect, steers 
subtly away from traditional literalism without 

i 7 English tr., Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the 
Hebrews (London, 1787). 

See his Isaiah, A New Translation (London, 1778). 

"Fow Geist der EbrSischen Poesie (1782-83); tor. 
James Marsh, The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry (Burlington: 
E. Smith, 1833). 



moving recklessly toward the rocks of rational- 
istic subjectivism. In spite of some exegetical 
limitations due to his illusions on human na- 
ture, Herder may still teach a great deal to 
biblical interpreters who have not begun ^ to 
understand the deep interweaving which unites 
theological formulation and poetic diction. In 
addition, Herder's relationship to the romantic 
movement enabled him to appreciate the cul- 
ture of the ancient Near East as it was known 
in his time and this made him a forerunner of 
the twentieth-century "school of comparative 

I L Literary and Historical Achievements 

Theological thinking generally, and biblical 
interpretation particularly, at least as far as the 
New Testament is concerned, were dominated 
for many decades of the nineteenth century by 
the influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher, who 
combined in a subjective synthesis rationalistic 
principles of exegesis with a Christocentric 
faith. As the deists had done, Schleiermacher 
rejected the uniqueness of the Bible, both as a 
monument of literature and as the authority 
for theological formulation. He noted that after 
the first bloom of Christianity had withered, 

the sacred scriptures . . . were regarded as a finished 
codex of religion. ... All who still feel the life of 
religion in themselves or perceive it in others, have 
ever protested against this unchristian proceeding. 
The sacred scriptures have, by their native power, 
become a bible, and forbid no other book to be or 
to become a bible. Anything written with like 
power they would willingly allow to be associated 
with themselves. 40 

Biblical authority is thus superseded by "that 
which flows immediately from the person of 
Jesus Christ." Unfortunately, Schleiermacher's 
view of Jesus, as shown by his posthumously 
published Leben Jesu (1864) , was chiefly a 
rationalistic truncation of the gospel record, in 
the line of the interpretation of Reimarus, and 
in some respects quite similar to that of Paulus 
(1828). Schleiermacher's theology was largely 
responsible for initiating "the quest for the 
historical Jesus." At the same time, his neglect 
and almost total ignorance of Old Testament 
religion and revelation 21 may be one of the 
causes for which nineteenth-century interpreters 

**Reden uber die Religion (Berlin, 1799); tr. John 
Oman, On Religion (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, 
Trubner & Co., 1893), p. 249. 

** See, e,g., the paucity of his remarks on the "biblical 
account of creation" (Der Christliche Glaube [1821-22], 
40), or the prejudiced character of his views on the 
"Mosaic Law" as part of the "divine economy of salva- 
tion" (ibid., 13). 

allowed the Old Testament to stand at the 
periphery of their preoccupations and left it to 
the literary critics. 

A. The Search for the "Jesus of History* 
Although an erudite exegete like Wilhelm de 
Wette had warned that any attempt to seek a 
chronological and psychological structure in the 
life of Jesus was bound to end in failure on 
account of the very nature of the available 
sources, the biographical approach flourished 
almost until the middle of the twentieth cen- 
tury. Perhaps the amazing success of David 
Strauss's Leben Jesu (1835) is chiefly respon- 
sible for the emergence of this trend. Strauss's 
representation of Jesus as a wise man is the 
result of rationalistic oversimplification, but 
many of his views are remarkably sound and 
have become widely accepted. He understood 
the motives which played a part in the growth of 
the gospel tradition and the principle of selec- 
tion by which some details rather than others 
were kept alive and amplified in the memory of 
the early Christians. He clearly saw the differ- 
ences which separate the Synoptics from the 
Fourth Gospel, and he rightly observed the 
eschatological aspect of the teaching of Jesus. 
In many ways Strauss anticipated the work of 
twentieth-century critics. 38 Moreover, the 
scandal produced by his Life of Jesus had one 
beneficial and lasting effect: it compelled schol- 
ars to evaluate anew the historical significance 
of the Gospels and their literary interrelation- 
ship. This type of study led to the formulation 
first of the Marcan hypothesis, 28 and later of the 
two-document hypothesis. 24 It also incited re- 
search on the origins of the whole New Testa- 
ment literature. 

Profoundly influenced by Hegel's philosophy 
of history, Ferdinand Christian Baur reinter- 
preted the birth of Christianity as the result of 
a conflict between a thesis (Jewish Christianity) 
and an antithesis (pagan Christianity) which 
resolved itself in a second-generation synthesis 
(Catholic Christianity) . SB This view of the de- 

22 F. C. Conybeare, History of New Testament Criticism 
(New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1910), pp. 141-42. See 
also the comments of Joachim Wach, Das Verstehen. 
Grundzuge einer Geschichte der hermeneutischen Theorie 
im 19. Jahrhundert (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1929), 
II, 271-76. 

* 8 Initiated by Christian Hermann Weisse in Die 
evangelische Geschichte (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Ha"rtel, 

** Formulated chiefly by Heinrich Holtzmann in Die 
synoptischen Evangelien f thr Ursprung und geschicht- 
licher Character (Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1863), 
and Bernhard Weiss in Das Leben Jesus (Berlin: W. 
Hertz, 1882). See article "The Growth of the Gospels," 
Vol. VII, pp. 60-74. 

* s Paulus der Apostel Jesu Christi (Stuttgart: Becher & 
Miiller, 1845); Kritische Untersuchungen Hbtfr die 
kanontschen Evangelien (Tubingen: L. F. Fues, 1847). 



velopment of the early church was not altogether 
wrong; unfortunately Baur used it as a criterion 
for determining the date and authenticity of the 
various New Testament writings, and this 
course led him to adopt a rather negative atti- 
tude toward the authenticity of the Pauline 
epistles, of which only Romans, I and II Corin- 
thians, and Galatians he ascribed to the Apostle 
to the Gentiles. Consequently, Baur's recon- 
struction of Pauline theology was quite frag- 

In the meantime, the skeptical, imaginative, 
or merely "liberal" lives of Jesus appeared in 
an astoundingly large number throughout the 
second half of the nineteenth century. 20 The 
most popular among them was probably La Vie 
de Jesus (1863) by Ernest Renan chiefly a 
sentimental romance. "There is a kind of in- 
sincerity in the book from beginning to end." a7 
But some of Renan's later contributions 28 often 
reveal an interpretative perspicacity based on a 
profound knowledge of Jewish thought in the 
first century A.D. 

The question of the Jesus of history seemed 
to float on stagnant waters until 1892, when 
Johannes Weiss analyzed Die Predigt Jesu vom 
Reiche Gottes and pointed out the eschatologi- 
cal, otherworldly, transcendental character of 
the kingdom of God as preached in the Gospels. 
The exclusively eschatological interpretation, 
however, was seriously qualified by Wilhelm 
Bousset, 29 who called attention to the diversity 
of forms in which Jewish apocalypticism pre- 
sented itself to the popular mind in the New 
Testament times. Bousset maintained that hope 
in the proximate advent of a transcendental 
kingdom affects one's attitude to the present 
reality in such a thorough fashion that it be- 
comes permissible to speak of a spiritualization 
of eschatology. Faith in God as a living and 
trustworthy father was combined in the teach- 
ing of Jesus with a genuine enjoyment of life 
upon this earth. This emphasis represents his 
main preoccupation more accurately than the 
admittedly eschatological bent of some of his 
sayings. In contrast with the Jewish apocalyp- 
tists and John the Baptist, Jesus fully lived in 
the present age, and he hailed the kingdom in 
his experience of filial communion with God 
and of brotherly fellowship with men. 

Such an interpretation exercised a peculiar 

28 See Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical 
Jesus, tr. W. Montgomery (New York: The Macmillan 
Co., 1950). 

T Ibid., p. 191. 

28 See particularly Les Apdtres (1866), Saint-Paul 
(1869), L' Antichrist (1873), and Les Evangiles et la 
seconde ge'ne'ration chretienne (1877). 

89 Jesu Predigt in ihrem Gegensatz zum Judentum 
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892). 

appeal to the average nineteenth-century Prot- 
estant. It found brilliant exponents and popu- 
larizers, none more so perhaps than Adolf von 
Harnack, who in his famous lectures entitled 
Das Wesen des Christentums (1899-1900) re- 
duced Christianity to the religion of Jesus and 
that, in turn, to an individualistic harmony be- 
tween God and man. 

The kingdom of God comes by coming to the 
individual, by entering into his soul and laying 
hold of it. True, the kingdom of God is the rule of 
God; but it is the rule of the Holy God in the 
hearts of individuals; it is God Himself in His 
power. From this point of view everything that is 
dramatic in the external and historical sense has 
vanished; and gone, too, are all the external hopes 
for the future. ... It is not a question of angels 
and devils, thrones and principalities, but of God 
and the soul, the soul and its God. 30 

In brief, Harnack was attempting to transform 
the gospel into a mere belief in "the fatherhood 
of God*' and in "the infinite value of the human 

Reviewing critically the whole nineteenth- 
century attempt to recapture the "historical 
Jesus," Schweitzer sharpened the issue to an 
extreme degree. He maintained that the "lib- 
eral" search led to the "thoroughgoing skepti- 
cism" of Wilhelm Wrede. 31 Wrede denied that 
Jesus ever thought of himself as the Messiah. 
After his death, however, the disciples, who had 
become convinced of his messiahship, created 
the fiction of the "messianic secret" in order to 
explain how it had happened that he never de- 
clared himself publicly as "the one who was to 
come." Against this view Schweitzer reacted 
violently by pushing Weiss's emphasis to a 
"thoroughgoing eschatology." 8a He found it 
impossible "to suppose that Jesus could come to 
mean more to our time by entering into it as a 
man like ourselves . . . because such a Jesus 
never existed." He conceded that "historical 
knowledge can no doubt introduce greater 
clearness into an existing spiritual life," but 
he added that "it cannot call spiritual life into 
existence." a8 Schweitzer, nonetheless, paid high 
tribute to German research on the life of Jesus, 
and held it to be "one of the most significant 
events in the whole mental and spiritual life of 
humanity." 8 * His implicit conclusion called for 

*<>What Is Christianity? tr. Thomas Bailey Saunders 
(2nd ed.; New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1901), pp. 

81 Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (GSttingent 
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1901). 

M Schweitzer, Das Messianitats-und Leidensgeheimnis. 
(Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1901). 

" Quest of the Historical Jesus, p. $99. 

* Ibid. 



a return to New Testament Christianity as a 

We are experiencing what Paul experienced. In 
the very moment when we were coming nearer to 
the historical Jesus than men had ever come before, 
and were already stretching out our hands to draw 
Him into our own time, we have been obliged to 
give up the attempt and acknowledge our failure in 
that paradoxical saying: 'If we have known Christ 
after the flesh yet henceforth know we Him no 
more." And further we must be prepared to find 
that the historical knowledge of the personality 
and life of Jesus will not be a help, but perhaps 
even an offence to religion. 85 

The religion of Jesus must make room once 
more for the religio de Christo. 

B. The Graf-Wellhausen School of Old Testa- 
ment Criticism. The first documentary theory 
of the Hexateuch's composition as it was popu- 
larized by Eichhorn's Einleitung (1780-83) did 
not hold the field of scholarship without wide- 
spread challenge and much opposition. Rival 
hypotheses of various kinds were proposed, 
such as the conjecture of the fragments, 86 for 
example, and especially that of the comple- 
ments and interpolations which was defended 
by Wilhelm de Wette. 87 The documentary the- 
ory, however, slowly regained ground under the 
various modifications introduced by Hermann 
Hupfeld, 38 who mistakenly continued to main- 
tain that the First Elohist (later known as the 
Priestly Code) was the earliest of the docu- 
ments. The postexilic dating of the Priestly 
Code was first recognized by douard Reuss in 
1833, but was finally established by Karl Graf, 89 
and endorsed by Abraham Kuenen and August 
Kayser/ The preparatory work was thus ac- 
complished when Julius Wellhausen came on 
the scene and gave the classical exposition of 
the Hexateuch's literary origin and develop- 
ment.* 1 

As a result of Wellhausen's lucid and in many 
ways brilliant demonstration* 8 which, like 

&td.,p. 401. 

88 See article "The Growth o! the Hexateuch," pp. 
188-89; also, Joseph Coppens, The Old Testament and 
the Critics, tr. Edward A. Ryan and Edward W. Tribbe 
(P#erson, N. J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1942), pp. 
II ff. 

87 De Wette remained famous for having applied the 
formula of "pious fraud" to the seventh-century compo- 
sition and discovery of the Deuteronomic Code. 

88 Die Quellen der Genesis und die Art ihrer Zusam* 
mensetzung (Berlin: Wiegandt & Grieben, 1855). 

* 9 Die geschichtlichen Bucher des Alien Testaments 
(Leipzig: T. O. Weigel, 1866). 

*Das vorexiltsche Such der Urgeschichte Israels und 
seine Eruteiterungen (Strassburg: C. F. Schmidt, 1874). 

41 Die Composition des Hexateuchs (Berlin: G. Relmer, 
1885; first published in the form of articles in 1876-77). 

"See especially Israelitische und Jildische Geschichte 
(3rd ed.; Gutersloh: G. Reimer, 1897), Eng. tr., Sketch 
of the History of Israel and Judah (London: Black, 

Baur's work on the early church, reveals the 
influence of Hegelian philosophy, a radically 
new conception of Israel's history dawned on 
the mind of the exegetes. While the Yahwist 
and Elohist documents were ascribed to a rela- 
tively early date, the Law as a whole came to be 
considered no longer as "the starting point for 
the history of ancient Israel," but rather as a 
priestly program conceived for the restoration 
of postexilic Judaism. It was felt that nothing 
could be known with certainty about the his- 
tory and religion of Israel before the time of 
David. Ignoring the theological structure which 
undergirds the Yahwist's conception of history, 
critics assumed that Israel's faith in Yahweh 
began and developed according to normal evo- 
lutionary processes, such as those which are 
observable among all primitive societies. Conse- 
quently, traces of animism, totemism, poly- 
daemonism, and polytheism were culled from 
the descriptions of rites and beliefs associated 
by the biblical writers with the Hebrew fathers, 
and this composite picture of "popular religion" 
was presented as corresponding adequately to 
the normative Yahwism of the early period. The 
"genius" of the eighth- and seventh-century 
prophets raised the practical monolatry of Yah- 
weh to the level of a consciously formulated 
henotheism, which then was purified and made 
triumphant in the form of ethical monotheism 
under the impact of the Babylonian exile. The 
Psalter and the wisdom literature were ascribed 
en bloc to postexilic Judaism, at a time when re- 
ligious individualism had at last conquered the 
consciousness of the Second Temple worshipers 
and teachers. Indeed, many of the psalms were 
thought to have been inspired by the Macca- 
bean rebellion. 

Such a reconstruction of the development of 
Old Testament religion, partial and unsatis- 
factory as it may have been at many points, 
produced a remarkable result: it created an 
unprecedented interest in the personalities of 
the prophets. For the first time the figures of 
Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and their successors 
emerged concretely and powerfully against the 
vivid background of economic, political, psycho- 
logical, and sociological forces. While the thun- 
ders and the flames of Sinai were lost in the 
dimness of the past, the prophets came into 
their own as living men of history. 48 

To ignore or to underestimate the signifi- 
cance of the literary and historical achievements 

1891); and Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (3rd ed*; 
Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1886), tr. J. Sutherland Black and 
Alan Menzies, Prolegomena to the History of Israel 
(Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1885) See also article "The 
Growth of the Hexateuch/' pp. 189-90. 

*" See the works of C. H. Cornill, W. Robertson Smith, 
George Adam Smith, Bernhard Duhm, et el 



of the Graf-Wellhausen school would constitute 
a grievous error. In spite of many modifications 
of detail, the documentary hypothesis still 
stands in its general lines after years of minute 
analysis and inquiry. However, the conception 
of the origin and development of Israel's reli- 
gion, and especially of the nature of the Yah- 
wistic faith, which was proposed by Wellhausen 
and his disciples, soon suffered profound revi- 

C. New Sources of Knowledge. Both in the 
field of the Old Testament and in that of the 
New Testament the acquisition of a vast 
amount of archaeological data produced a con- 
siderable enlargement of the picture of the 
ancient world, against which stood out in a new 
light the life of Israel and of the early church. 
Modern archaeology of the ancient Near East 
began when Napoleon Bonaparte brought a 
hundred artists and scholars to the sleeping 
ruins of the Nile Valley in 1798. The decipher- 
ing of hieroglyphics by Champollion in 1822, 
and of the cuneiform script by Rawlinson in 
1846, inaugurated the manifold and complex 
work of interpreting thousands of texts which 
were soon being unearthed from the sands of 
Egypt and Mesopotamia. This development led 
to a new conception of the classical Orient. The 
Bible could no longer be considered as the 
earliest book of mankind's culture. Its religion 
could not any more be viewed in its "splendid 

Meanwhile, in 1838 and 1852, Edward Robin- 
son surveyed systematically the western lands 
of Asia Anterior and laid the foundations of 
biblical geography/ 4 Scientific research in bib- 
lical Hebrew, which had been inaugurated by 
Wilhelm Gesenius,* 8 was advancing steadily 
through the study of comparative Semitic phi- 
lology which the archaeological discoveries of 
Mesopotamian and other documents made pos- 
sible on a scale hitherto unknown.* 8 Likewise, 
New Testament exegetes became aware of the 
Aramaic background of the language used in 
the Gospels and Acts, especially through the 
investigations of Emil Kautzsch and Gustaf 
Dalman. 47 From Adolf Deissmann * 8 and others 

* 4 Biblical Researches in Palestine , Mount Sinai and 
Arabia Petraea (New York: J. Leavitt, 1841, etc). 

** Hebraisches . . . Handwbrterbuch (1812, etc.); 
Hebraische Grammatik (1813, etc.); Thesaurus Philo- 
logicus Criticus Linguae Hebraeae et Chaldaeae Veteris 
Testamenti (1829-53). 

"See article "The Language of the Old Testament," 
pp. 220-32. 

47 Grammatik des judisch-palSstinischen AramSisch 
(Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1894); Die Worte Jesu (Leip- 
zig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1898). 

* 8 Bibelstudien (Marburg: N. G. Elwert, 1893); and 
especially Licht vom Osten (Tubingen: J. C, B. Mohr, 
1908), tr. Lionel R. M. Strachan, Light from the Ancient 
East (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910). 

they also learned to analyze the Greek of the 
New Testament in the light of a better appre- 
ciation of the dialects and especially of the Hel- 
lenistic tongue as it came to light through the 
discovery of papyri and ostraca.* 9 Perhaps Deiss- 
man's insistence on the popular character of the 
koine, necessary as this was, suffered from a 
certain degree of exaggeration and did not do 
full justice to the scholarly modes of expression 
common in the Jewish literature with which at 
least some of the New Testament writers were 
apparently acquainted. 

The importance of the rabbinical teaching 
and preaching for the exegesis of the Gospels, 
which had been long ago sensed by John Light- 
foot, 50 received in due course a wide and scruti- 
nizing attention that led to the outstanding work 
of Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck. 61 

Finally, efforts to restore the primitive text 
of the Bible proceeded on a broad scope and at 
an accelerated pace. Tischendorf's discovery in 
1844 of the Codex Sinaiticus and the labors of 
many other textual critics 5S led to the establish- 
ment of scientifically edited texts of the Hebrew 
Bible, the Septuagint, and the Greek New Tes- 

Thus, archaeological excavations, with their 
cultural and particularly their epigraphic yields, 
as well as research in comparative philology and 
textual criticism, brought interpreters more 
closely than ever to the literal meaning of the 
biblical writings. The addition of these new 
sources of knowledge was largely responsible for 
the inception of new methods of interpretative 

D. Modern Method? of Interpretation. In 
contrast to mere literary critics who were inter- 
ested almost exclusively in the composition of 
the scriptural documents and the analysis of 
their respective sources and too little concerned 
with the meaning of their contents, several 
scholars felt the need of adapting or refining 
the old, and of devising new methods of ap- 
proach to the Scriptures. They turned to the 
history of the oral tradition, the comparative 
study of religion or history of religion, and the 
analysis of form or form criticism. The cautious 
application of these methods produced a harvest 
of fruitful results which, in the mid-century, 
were still being formulated and evaluated. 

In the field of Old Testament study Hermann 

* See article "The Language of the New Testament," 
Vol. VII, pp. 43-59. 

*Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae (Cambridge and 
London, 1658-78). 

x Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud ttnd 
Midrasch (Munich: C, H. Beck, 1922-28). 

Ba See articles "The Text and Ancient Versions of the 
Old Testament," pp. 46-62; "The Text and Ancient 
Versions of the New Testament," pp. 72-83. 



Gunkel, 58 followed by Hugo Gressmann, 84 
Alfred Jeremias 56 and others, while paying high 
tribute to the accomplishments of literary criti- 
cism, realized that Wellhausen and his school 
were too passively subservient to the literary 
documents alone in their reconstruction of reli- 
gious history. Gunkel rightly maintained that 
rites, customs, and even beliefs which are re- 
corded in relatively late sources may actually 
belong to an extremely early age. He therefore 
endeavored to reach the contents andwhen- 
ever possible- the history of the oral tradition 
which lay behind the written documents them- 
selves. In addition, just as Wellhausen had 
studied the religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs, 68 
Gunkel and his disciples analyzed the Egyptian, 
Babylonian, and Persian religions in an attempt 
to discover the foreign influences which may 
have played upon the development of Old Tes- 
tament religion. By so doing they brought 
sharply into focus the way in which Israel, as 
part of the ancient world, was constantly in 
danger of being corrupted by surrounding 
paganism and yet asserted against it the dis- 
tinctive power of her own faith. 

Finally, Gunkel paid particular attention to 
the literary forms of the Old Testament writ- 
ings, and by initiating the method of form 
criticism made his most brilliant contribution. 
He showed conclusively that Hebrew literature 
followed precise aesthetic patterns or structures 
characterizing specific literary categories or 
genres (Gattungeri) , which did not emerge in 
vacua but were born over the centuries from 
the requirements of a "life situation" (Sitz im 
Leben) . Naturally, the method of form criticism 
01 form analysis is not separate in its applica- 
tion from the method of "history of religion." 
Gunkel's study of the Psalter, for instance, re- 
vealed that an objective classification of the 
psalms into hymns, laments, royal songs, and 
so forth, may be obtained from the investiga- 
tion of the poetic structure and also from a 
comparison with the cultic poems of Egypt and 
Mesopotamia. The combined application of the 

"See especially Schopfung and Chaos in Urzeit und 
Endzeit (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1895, 
etc.); Genesis ubersetit und erklart (Gottingen: Vanden- 
hoeck fc Ruprecht, 1901, etc.); Einleitung in die Psalmen, 
ed. J. Begrich (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 

* Altorientalische Texte und Bilder zum Alien Testa- 
ments (Tubingen: J, C. B Mohr, 1909, etc.); Der 
Ursprung der israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie (Got- 
tingen: Vandenhoeak & Ruprecht, 1905); Der Messias 
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck fe Ruprecht, 1929). 

ss Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients 
(Leipzig: J. G. Hinrichs, 1904, etc.), tr. C. L. Beaumont, 
The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East 
(London: Williams & Norgate, 1911). 

88 See especially Reste Arabischen Heidentums (Berlin: 
Georg Reimer, 1887, etc.). 

two methods revitalized the exegesis of the 
psalms by showing that they answered precise 
needs in concrete environments. 

Gunkel himself made it clear that his interest 
in the history of the ancient religions and in 
the form criticism of the Old Testament books 
was dependent upon his belief in the Christian 
significance of the Bible as a whole. 

Before our eyes, uplifting us and bearing us 
onward, stood a wondrous picture the Religion of 
the Bible in all its glory and dignity. We had come 
to see that such a phenomenon can be under- 
stood only when it is understood in its history, in its 
growth and becoming. It seemed to us to be a sub- 
lime task to understand this religion in its depth and 
breadth, to trace it through its winding course, to be 
present at the birth of its deepest thoughts, 57 

The expression "to be present at*' reveals a 
certain historical warmth, but also detachment, 
for it has nothing to do with "being personally 
involved in." Although Gunkel acknowledged 
that if "the Bible [ceased] to be the foundation 
of the Christian Church, Bible scholarship 
would also receive a fatal blow," 5S he was not 
concerned directly with the theological rele- 
vance of the Hebrew Scripture for Christians. 

Methods of comparative religion and of form 
criticism were soon applied also to the New 
Testament writings. The pioneering works of 
Franz Cumont 50 and James Frazer 60 on the 
transformations wrought in Greco-Roman cul- 
ture by the seemingly irresistible attraction of 
the Oriental religions, together with the results 
of Richard Reitzenstein's research on the Her- 
metic literature, 61 led to a re-evaluation of the 
way in which the Christian gospel, especially in 
its Pauline form, was preached to the Mediter- 
ranean world. Pursuing the superficial appear- 
ances of the parallels, such as in Paul's use of 
technical terms common in the mystery cults 
or in his emphasis on the rites of baptism and 
of a sacramental meal, some critics viewed the 
phenomenon of early Christianity as nothing 
more than another mystery religion. Wrote 
Alfred Loisy: 

The scheme of Messianic salvation, of which the 
Galilean prophet thought himself the destined head, 
became a myth of universal salvation. . . . [Jesus] 
was a saviour-god . . . : like Adonis, Osiris, and 
Attis he had died a violent death, and like them 

BT "The 'Historical Movement' in the Study of Reli- 
gion," The Expository Times, XXXVIII (1926-27), 533. 

w Ibid., p. 534 

** Les religions orientates dans le paganisme romain 
(Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1907). 

e The Golden Bough, Part III, The Dying God, Part 
IV, Adonis Attis Osiris (London: Macmillan & Co., 1911, 

** We hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen (Leipzig: B. 
G. Teubner, 1910). 



he had returned to life; like them, he had prefig- 
ured in his lot that of the human beings who 
should take part in his worship, and commemorate 
his mystic enterprise; like them, he had prede- 
termined, prepared, and assured the salvation of 
those who became partners in his passion. 62 

Yet, many adherents of the religionsgeschicht- 
liche Schule came to adopt a more balanced 
conception of the part played by Hellenistic 
syncretism in the New Testament interpretation 
of the death and resurrection of Christ, espe- 
cially after Deissmann 88 re-emphasized cau- 
tiously the influence exercised over Pauline 
thought by the specifically Jewish element. 

The need to study the forms of the oral tradi- 
tion that lay behind the written Gospels had 
already been sensed by Eichhorn (1794) , Krum- 
macher (1805) , and especially Gieseler (1818). 
It was, however, primarily on account of 
Gunkel's brilliant application of the form crit- 
ical method to the study of the Genesis sagas 
(1901) that New Testament scholars turned 
their attention to the history of the gospel tra- 
dition. 6 * Martin Dibelius, who had prepared 
the way in 1911 by his studies on John the 
Baptist, 85 applied the new method on an in- 
clusive scale, 66 simultaneously with Karl Ludwig 
Schmidt, 67 and the work of these two scholars 
was soon followed by the contribution of Ru- 
dolf Bultmann. 68 Accepting the artificial char- 
acter of the Marcan framework, 69 as well as the 
fragmentary, independent, and self-contained 
nature of the stories about Jesus which cir- 
culated among the early Christians, form critics 
attempted to classify these stories according to 
their respective "forms" as sayings, paradigms, 
wonder tales, legends, and myths. They showed 
how these forms arose and were preserved to 
satisfy the homiletical and practical needs of 

* "The Christian Mystery," The Hibbert Journal, X 
(1911), 51. See also Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos 
(Gflttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1913, etc.). 

*Paulus (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1911, etc.), tr. 
Lionel R. M. Strachan, Paul (London: Hodder & Stough- 
ton, 1912). 

e * See Maurice Goguel, "Une nouvelle e"cole de critique 
eVange'lique," Revue de I'Histoire des Religions, XCIV 
(1926), 114-60. 

88 Die urchristliche Uberlieferung uber Johannes dem 
TaUfer (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck fc Ruprecht, 1911). 

"Die Formgeschichte des Evangeliums (Tubingen: 
J. C. B. Mohr, 1919, etc.), tr. Bertram Lee Woolf, From 
Tradition to Gospel (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 

T Die Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu (Berlin: Trowtech 
& Sohn, 1919). 

**Die Erforsckung der synoptischen Evangelien (G8t- 
tingen: A. Topelmann, 1925). 

e9 A fact which had long been recognized by such 
scholars as Johannes Weiss (Das alteste Evangelium [G8t- 
tingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1901]) and Maurice 
Goguel (L'Zvangile de Marc [Paris: Ernest Leroux, 

the early communities (cf. Gunkel's Sitz im 
Leben) . Furthermore, they claimed that the 
original tradition could be recovered through 
the study of the laws by which the forms were 
transmitted. Unfortunately the classifications 
proposed by the various leaders of the school 
are far from identical, and they are based not 
exclusively on considerations of form, but on 
the analysis of the contents as well. The claims 
to objectivity made by the exponents of form 
criticism are therefore somewhat exaggerated. 
In addition, form critics have made a number 
of gratuitous assumptions concerning the needs 
and social requirements of the various Christian 
groups. Finally, they have shown a tendency to 
neglect almost completely the results of literary 
criticism itself. In spite of these and other 
limitations, 70 the form critics have rendered a 
great service to exegesis by insisting rightly on 
the theological and especially kerygmatic, rather 
than the primarily historical, purpose of the 
gospel writers. 

It was precisely at this same time that the 
theology of Karl Earth began to sweep Europe. 71 
While exegetes were slowly realizing that both 
the Old Testament and the New Testament 
were the products of faith, systematic theolo- 
gians were suddenly returning to the Bible in 
an attempt to recover its authority by listening 
through its pages to the perennial "word of 
God." The confluence of these two originally 
independent trends characterizes the contempo- 
rary period of interpretation. 

HI. Biblical Exegesis at the Mid-Century 

Technical research in archaeology, in philol- 
ogy, in textual, literary, and form criticism pro- 
duced in these years such an enormous amount 
of material 72 that most biblical interpreters be- 
came extraordinarily specialized. Many of the 
most significant contributions dealt with frag- 
mentary problems of translation and interpreta- 
tion of isolated passages. It is thus difficult and 
somewhat reckless to characterize the prevailing 
trends. Still, it is possible to observe a threefold 
tendency: (a) for some books of the Bible, at 
least, a return to relatively conservative con- 
clusions on matters of composition and date; 
(&) an increased readiness to accept the histor- 
ical reliability of the documents; and (c) a re- 

see Vincent Taylor's critique of the form critical 
method in The Formation of the Gospel Tradition 
(London: Macmillan & Co., 1933). 

*i Earth's Der Romerbrief (Miinchen: C, Kaiser, 1923), 
with its brilliant insights, is more an illustration of 
theological eisegesis than a monument of exegesis. 

"See among others Harold R. Willoughby, ed., The 
Study of the Bible Today and Tomorrow (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1947). 



born awareness of the primarily theological 
intentions of the biblical writers. 

A. Trends in Old Testament Study. The 
documentary hypothesis of Hexateuchal compo- 
sition triumphantly survived the attacks of the 
previous four decades. 73 With minor differences 
as regards the contents, characteristics, and 
dates of the various strata, 7 * the majority of 
scholars accepted on the whole the literary 
results of the Graf-Wellhausen analysis. 75 Most 
o the exegetes were pursuing the study of the 
oral traditions along the lines indicated by 
Gunkel, but they were also aware of the the- 
ological purpose which animated the editors 
and redactors of these traditions. Gerhard von 
Rad, and to a limited extent Martin Noth, TT 
have shown that the Yahwist, although he was 
the earliest writer of the Hexateuch (the date of 
J, incidentally, for various reasons was being 
pushed back from 850-750 to ca. 950 B.C. or 
even earlier) , conceived his work as the history 
of the "grand design of salvation," and he tried 
to substantiate the old covenantal creeds 
represented, for instance, by the archaic liturgy 
of Deut. 26:5-9 by collecting a multitude of 
originally independent traditions and by or- 
ganizing them into a structure of Heihge- 
schichte. He preached on the one hand the 
power of Yahweh, his saving grace and ethical 
requirements, and on the other hand, the sinful 
nature of man and the mission of Israel. The 
Yahwist's categories of thinking were therefore 
strictly theological, for he dealt first and last 
with God's purpose in mankind's history. In 
this respect exegesis in the mid-century divorced 
itself from the Wellhausenian reconstruction of 
Israel's religion, and while it recognized of 
course the existence of a development through- 
out the centuries of biblical life, it refused a 
priori to associate early expressions of belief 
with a so-called "primitive" theology which 
had to be superseded by the so-called "insights" 
T * Especially those of Klostermann (1908-12), Eerdmans 
(1908-12), Wiener (1910-12), Naville (1921), Sanda 
(1924), D. B. Macdonald (1933), Cassuto (1934), and 
Olmstead (1943). The existence of the Elohist, which 
Volz (1933) and Rudolph (1938) had tried to discard, 
appears to be vindicated. 

"Proposed respectively by Eissfeldt (1922), Morgen- 
stern (1927), and Pfeiffer (1930-41). 

TB See Aage Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament 
(Copenhagen, G. E. C. Gad, 1948); Artur Weiser, Ein- 
leitung in das Alte Testament (Gottingen: W. Kohlham- 
mer, 1949); Adolphe Lods, Histoire de la literature 
hfbraique et juive (Paris: Payot, 1950); also Cuthbert A. 
Simpson, The Early Traditions of Israel (New York: 
The Maonillan Co., 1948). 

Das formgeschichtliche Problem des Hexateuch 
(Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1938); Deuteronomium- 
Studien (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1947); 
Das erste Bitch Mose (G6ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ru- 
precht, 1949). 

it Uberlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuch (Stuttgart: 
W. Kohlhammer, 1948). 

of the great prophets. 78 The tendency was to 
emphasize, not from dogmatic presuppositions, 
but from the understanding of the texts them- 
selves in the light of the archaeological evi- 
dence, 70 the uniqueness of Yahwism as com- 
pared to the other religions of the ancient Near 
East, and the unity of the Old Testament revela- 
tion of God in spite of its diversity. 

Likewise, if the antiquity of the oral tradi- 
tions concerning the pre-Mosaic age, for in- 
stance, became apparent from an analysis of the 
forms in which they have been preserved, the 
question of their historical validity was re- 
opened on a new basis. The exact chronology 
of the patriarchal age was still a matter of de- 
bate, but extensive research 80 tended to show 
that the patriarchal traditions are not the prod- 
uct of late imagination, for they correspond 
remarkably well to the Sitz im Leben which is 
revealed by extrabiblical documentation. Such 
views were by no means acceptable to all, but 
the very fact that they were presented seriously 
by responsible critics who were not prone to 
use archaeology for the sake of defending fun- 
damentalism or any kind of dogmatic ortho- 
doxy constituted a strong reinforcement of the 
trend toward historical conservatism. Moreover, 
it became increasingly clear that the covenantal 
requirements of early Yahwism were primarily 
of a theological and ethical nature in contra- 
distinction to the ritual characteristics of the 
agrarian syncretism which corrupted the popu- 
lar religion of Israel after the conquest. 

The work of the prophets was thus brought 
into a new light. They inherited their "ethical 
monotheism" from their predecessors, but they 
deepened its implications under the stress of 
historical crisis. It seems that Amos and his 
successors built upon the theology of Yahweh's 
presence as it was made concrete within the 
people, and of Yahweh's lordship over nature 
and history. 81 The basic agreement between 

78 "Only the most extreme criticism can see any ap- 
preciable difference between the God of Moses in JE and 
the God of Jeremiah" (W. F. Albright, "The Ancient 
Near East and the Religion of Israel," Journal of Biblical 
Literature, LIX [1940], 111). 

See G. Ernest Wright, "The Present State of Biblical 
Archeology," in Harold R. Willoughby, ed., Study of 
Bible Today and Tomorrow f pp. 92 ff. 

*See W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Chris- 
tianity (2nd ed.; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1946); 
The Archaeology of Palestine (Harmondsworth: Pelican 
Books, 1949); R. de Vaux, "Les patriarches hbreux et 
les dteuvertes modernes/ 1 Revue Biblique, LIII (1946), 
321-48, LV (1948), 321-47, LVI (1949), 5-36; H. H. 
Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (London: Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1950). 

81 See G. Henton Davies, "The Yahwistic Tradition in 
the Eighth-Century Prophets," and N. W. Porteous, *'Thc 
Basis of the Ethical Teaching of the Prophets," in H. H. 
Rowley, ed , Studies in Old Testament Prophecy (Edin- 
burgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950), pp. 37 ff., 143 ff. 



Yahwism and prophetism was stressed on various 
levels, one of which is the Glaubensideologie, 
which is found some fifty- two times before 
Amos; another, the covenantal emphasis on 
obedience; and a third, the da'ath 'elohtm, or 
knowledge of God, which became the keystone 
of Hosea's religion. The prophets were able to 
perceive their special "word" because they were 
steeped in the Yahwistic tradition. 

Intensive research on the prophetic books, 
especially that pursued by Scandinavian schol- 
ars, was less intent than in the previous genera- 
tion upon trying to isolate the ipsissima verba 
of the prophetic figures and more eager to 
interpret correctly the meaning of the books 
in their totality. All these studies revealed in 
various degrees the three characteristics of the 
period: they showed a new respect for the 
validity of the Masoretic text; 8a they assumed 
a somewhat reactionary stand on the integrity 
of composition; 88 and they laid the exegetical 
emphasis on the theological meaning of the 
prophetic message. The work of Christopher R. 
North on the suffering servant 84 deserves special 
notice, for a strong case was made therein for a 
messianic-soteriological interpretation of the 
servant although not in the Davidic sense of 
Isa. 9 and 11 along lines which lead directly 
to the New Testament application. North went 
so far as to state that Deutero-Isaiah was a 
"myth" prophet in the predictive sense, who 
pictured the servant not at all as Israel (which 
had failed) , but as an individual figure who 
would come on this earth and whose chastise- 
ment would bring peace to the Gentiles. The 
theological interest of these exegetes is equally 
visible in monographs on the Hagiographa, 
particularly Job and the Psalms. 

B. New Testament Criticism in Transition. 
Spurred by the discovery of new fragments of 
manuscripts, particularly those of the Chester 
Beatty papyri, a considerable amount of work 
was accomplished in the textual criticism of the 
New Testament. The extremely complex rela- 
tionship of the manuscript families was studied 
on an objective basis, and a scientific text super- 
seding the editions of Tischendorf, of Westcott 
and Hort, and of Nestle, was in process of 
establishment. Linguistic studies were intensely 
carried forward, particular emphasis being laid 
on the theological keywords, as in Gerhard 
Kind's Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen 

M The legitimacy of this attitude has received unex- 
pected support from the discovery of the *Ain Feshka 
MS of Isaiah. 

8 * E.g., Artur Weiser accepted the authenticity o! Mic. 
5-6; 7:1-7 in addition to 1-3. See Das Buck der zwolf 
Kleinen Propheten (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 
1949), I, ad he. 

84 The Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah (London: 
Oxford University Press, 1948). 

Testament, a monument of invaluable informa- 
tion under the editorship of Gerhard Friedrich. 

Synoptical exegesis appeared at the same time 
to avoid the excesses of literary criticism as well 
as the extremes of form criticism, while taking 
full advantage of the contributions which both 
methods may offer. 85 Such a fact as that the testi- 
mony of eyewitnesses lies at the origin of the 
oral tradition was increasingly recognized. The 
ecclesiastical nature and the theological purpose 
of the gospel literature were taken into serious 
consideration at every point of the exegetical 
analysis. Considerable attention was given to 
the Fourth Gospel, 88 the composition of which 
was now often ascribed to a first-century date. 
While the problem of the validity of the sources 
used by the Johannine evangelist remains ex- 
tremely complex, the trend here also was in the 
direction of a qualified conservatism 87 and gave 
more confidence in the historical accuracy of 
the narrative. 

Intensive studies were also pursued on the 
book of Acts and the early church, 88 and par- 
ticular attention was given to the early sermons 
and to the historical value of the narratives 
concerning Paul. Although lives of Jesus were 
written between the two world wars, 89 scholars 
were slowly coming to recognize the impossi- 
bility of the merely biographical inquiry. The 
familiar and worn-out antitheses of the nine- 
teenth and early twentieth centuries, like those 
of Jesus or Paul, Synoptics or Fourth Gospel, 
eschatology or earthly kingdom, and so forth, 
were overshadowed by more balanced views 
which were not reached from an artificially syn- 
thetic approach but were derived from con- 
scientious sifting and evaluation of previous 
exegetical contributions. 90 

5 See, e.g., F. C. Grant, The Earliest Gospel (New 
York and Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1943). 

86 See among others R. H. Strachan, The Fourth Gospel 
(London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1917); W. 
Bauer, Das Johannesevangelium (Tubingen: J. C. B. 
Mohr, 1925); W. F. Howard, The Fourth Gospel in 
Recent Criticism and Interpretation (London: Epworth 
Press, 1931); Philip Menond, L'fyjangile de Jean d'apres 
les recherches rdcentes (Paris: Neuchatel, 1943); E. G. 
Hoskyns and F. N. Davey, The Fourth Gospel (London: 
Faber & Faber, 1948); Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium 
des Johannes (llth ed.; Gdttingen: Vandenhoeck & 
Ruprecht, 1950). 

87 A fact which had already been recognized by 
Maurice Goguel in his Vie de Jtsus; see The Life of Jesus, 
tr. Olive Wyon (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1933), 
pp. 156-57 and, in the revised French edition, Je'sus 
(Paris: Payot, 1950), pp. 107-10. 

sa The Beginnings of Christianity, ed. F. J. Foakes 
Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (London: Macmillan & Co., 
1920-33). See also C. H Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching 
and Its Developments (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 

8 See Chester C. McCown, The Search for the Real 
Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940). 

See, e.g., W. G. Kummel, Verheissung und Erfiillung, 
Untersuchungen zur eschatologischer Verkundigung Jesu 



Several dangers arose, however, when radical 
form critics, such as Bultmann, 91 were at times 
inclined to disregard the importance of histor- 
ical research altogether, simply because the his- 
torical event of God's revelation in Jesus Christ 
is known and transmitted only through the 
kerygmatic word. On much safer grounds ap- 
peared to be such an interpreter as Oscar Cull- 
mann, 92 who squarely placed the Christian 
event in the whole biblical Heilsgeschichte, 
insisted upon the "temporally unique character 
of the central event," and at the same time 
pointed out the peril of the ever-recurrent 
heresy of Docetism. It is on account of this 
awareness that, in the words of C. H. Dodd, 

we turn back to the unfinished "quest of the 
historical Jesus"; for we cannot escape it, in spite 
of the flourishes against "Historismus" with which 
our period opened. As the great tradition reveals 
itself afresh in its wholeness and essential unity, 
the yawning gap which earlier criticism left be- 
tween the Jesus of History and the emergent 
Church disappears, and we begin to see that to 
make a separation between the historical and the 
theological understanding of the Gospel is to put 
asunder what God hath joined. 88 

C. Toward the Formulation of a Biblical 
Theology. Exegetes at the mid-century were 
thus aware of their theological responsibility. 
Old Testament scholars no longer apologized for 
the fact that the Hebrew Scripture is part of the 
Christian canon; they were not on the whole 
tempted to divorce a structural exposition of 
the various Hebrew formulations of faith from 
the historical account of the Hebrew religion 
in its development and diversity. Until 1950, 
no treatise had superseded Walther Eichrodt's 
inclusive explication of the way in which the 
Hebrew revelation of God, man, sin, and 
salvation is focused on the covenant; e4 however, 
several monographs on limited subjects 95 show 
that interpreters were cautiously beginning to 

(Basel; H. Majer, 1945; "Abhandlungen zur Theologie 
des Alten und Neuen Testaments"). 

At least in his extremely controversial remarks on 
the Christian myth in "Neues Testament und Mythol- 
ogie," in Kerygma und Mythos; ein theologtsches 
Gesprachj ed. Hans W. Bartsch (Hamburg: Reich & 
Hedrich, 1948), pp. 15-53. See the critique of Amos N. 
Wilder, "Mythology and the New Testament/' Journal 
of Biblical Literature, LXIX (1950), 113-27. 

* Christus nnd die Zeit (Zurich: Zollikon, 1946), tr. 
F. V. Filson, Christ and Time (Philadelphia: Westminster 
Press, 1950). 

8 "Thirty Years of New Testament Study," Union 
Seminary Quarterly Review, V (1950), 12. 

M Theologie des Alten Testaments (Leipzig: J. C. 
Hinrichs, 1933-39). 

85 Such as J. J. Stamm, Erlosen und Vergeben im Alten 
Testament (Bern: A. Francke, 1940); Christopher North, 
The Old Testament Interpretation of History (London: 
Epworth Press, 1946); H. H. Rowley, The Biblical 
Doctrine of Election (London: Lutterworth Press, 1950). 

draw lines across the centuries in an effort to 
grasp the homogeneity of Israel's religious 
growth. The task could not be accomplished 
without further discussion on methodology.* 

Similarly, books were appearing with the 
title of "Theology of the New Testament," M 
though many of them still treated the early 
Christian thought in fragmentary fashion 
Paulinism, Johanninism, and so forth. There 
was, however, a real need for a presentation of 
the great themes God, man, sin, salvation, king- 
dom, and church in their "growth and variety" 
from Paul to Hebrews and II Peter, along the 
lines drawn by F. C. Grant, who insisted rightly 
that in spite of the diversity of expression, "the 
faith is one" and "the fundamental outlook of 
the primitive church was certainly consistent 
and increasingly homogeneous." 98 

The next step was to be taken when a truly 
"biblical" theology, a theology o the Bible as a 
whole, should reveal how the unresolved ten- 
sions of Hebrew faith particularism and uni- 
versalism, grace and law, individual and 
community, church and world, history and 
eschatology are displaced, overcome, and trans- 
figured by what proved to be at once the scan- 
dal and the creativity of the Christ-event. The 
fulfillment of this task demanded a restatement 
of exegetical purpose and methodology. 

D. Discussions on Hermeneutics. One can- 
not review the history of biblical interpretation 
without observing that exegetes have been too 
often influenced in their work by epistemolog- 
ical presuppositions of which they themselves 
were more or less unaware. "Historical" exe- 
gesis, for example, which vehemently claimed 
to have reached the highest possible degree of 
objectivity was chiefly dominated by philo- 
sophical premises of a naturalistic type. Not 
only have the allegorical or "spiritual," and, to 
a lesser extent, typological interpreters prac- 
ticed eisegesis rather than exegesis, but also 
many self-styled "exegetes" have done so: for 
instance, the "liberal" students who spiritual- 
ized the eschatological element in the teaching 
of Jesus or the "neo-orthodox" theologians who 
dismissed the "mythological frame" as alien to 
the New Testament. 

See James D. Smart, "The Death and Rebirth of Old 
Testament Theology/' Journal of Religion, XXIII 
(1948), Ml, 125-36; N. W. Porteous, "Towards a The- 
ology of the Old Testament," Scottish Journal of Theol- 
ogy, I (1948), 136-49; Robert C. Dentan, Preface to Old 
Testament Theology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 

*See Ethelbert Stauffer, Die Theologie des Neuen 
Testaments (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1947); Rudolf 
Bultmann, Theologie des Neuen Testaments (Tiibingen: 
J. C. B. Mohr, 1948-51). 

8 An Introduction to New Testament Thought (New 
York and Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), 
p. 42. 



It is unfortunate that much of the mid-cen- 
tury discussion on hermeneutic principles origi- 
nated with men who disparaged the work of the 
historico-critical schools in a one-sided way and 
proposed in its stead a "suprahistorical," "dog- 
matic/* "pneumatic," "ecclesiastic," or strictly 
"theological" exegesis. 90 In general, however, 
the sounder view was being maintained that 
the exegete must be concerned at all times with 
the philological, grammatical, literal meaning 
of the text as it is related to the historical 
framework of composition. 100 But his task does 
not end there. The exegete cannot and should 
not deny that the meaning of a text has grown 
in the whole scriptural context and needs there- 
fore to be viewed in the light of that context. 
For instance, if the exegete analyzes the expres- 
sion imago dei, he must realize that the priestly 
school which was originally responsible for it 
wrote at a time of grave national distress; he 
must remember that the final editors of the 
Pentateuch preserved this expression in a story 
which is now placed side by side with the J 
accounts of the Creation and the Fall, thereby 
suggesting a subtle equilibrium between con- 
trasting emphases; he must also take into 
central consideration the fact that the New 
Testament places upon the famous text of 
Genesis its culminating, teleological interpre- 
tation. In other words, the exegesis of a passage 
includes not only "The determination of the 
text; . . . The literary form of the passage; . . . 
The historical situation, the Sitz im Leben; . . . 
The meaning which the words had for the 
original author and hearer or reader"; but also, 
". . . The understanding of the passage in the 
light of its total context and the background 
out of which it emerged." 101 This "total con- 
text" should mean "the total Scripture." The 
theologically-minded exegete will therefore en- 

80 See, e.g., Albrecht Oepke, Geschichtliche und uber- 
geschichtliche Schriftauslegung (Giitersloh: C. Bertels- 
mann, 1931); see also Karl Barth's well-known stand, as 
reaffirmed in his Kirehliche Dogmatik (Miinchen: C. 
Kaiser, 1948), Vol. Ill, Bd. 2, pp. vii-ix. 

100 See, among many others, H. Cunliffe- Jones, The 
Authority of the Biblical Revelation (London: James 
Clarke & Co., 1945); Floyd V. Filson, "Theological Exe- 
gesis/' The Journal of Bible and Religion, XVI (1948), 
212-15; Oscar Cullmann, "La necessity et la fonction de 
Texegese philologique et historique de la Bible/* Verbum 
Caro, III (1949), 2-13. 

101 From "Guiding Principles for the Interpretation o 
the Bible, As accepted by the ecumenical Study Confer- 
ence, held in Oxford from June 29th to July 5th 1949." 
Studies on "The Bible and the Church Message to the 
World/' as quoted by G. Ernest Wright, "The Problem 
of Archaizing Ourselves," Interpretation, III (1949), 458. 

ter into the biblical world through his participa- 
tion in the KOIVCOVICC of the people of God. Con- 
sidering the object of his science, he will know 
that a neutral, detached, "objective" attitude 
would become in effect "unscientific." In this 
sense "theological" exegesis is not only legiti- 
mate but also indispensable; however, it cannot 
be divorced from the literal interpretation, 
which at all times must restrain the vagaries of 
subjective imagination too often "deified" as 
"the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit," and 
must resist even the pressure of a particular 
ecclesiastic tradition. 102 In any event, the inter- 
preter should study in considerable detail the 
history of interpretation, thereby obtaining a 
clear sense of his responsibility, and perhaps 
also some humility. 

IV. Selected Bibliography 

BURGHARDT, W. J. "On Early Christian Exegesis," 
Theological Studies, XI (1950) , 78-116. 

CARPENTER, J. ESTLIN. The Bible in the Nineteenth 
Century. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 

COPPENS, JOSEPH. The Old Testament and the 
Critics, tr. Edward A. Ryan and Edward W. 
Tribbe. Paterson, N. J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 

tion of the Bible. London: Society for Promoting 
Christian Knowledge, 1944. 

FARRAR, FREDERIC WILLIAM. History of Interpreta- 
tion. New York: E. P. Button & Co., 1886. 

GILBERT, GEORGE HOLLEY. Interpretation of the 
Bible. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1908. 

GLUNZ, H. H. History of the Vulgate in England 
from Alcuin to Roger Bacon. Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1933. 

GRANT, ROBERT M. The Bible in the Church. 
New York: The Macmillan Co., 1948. 

ROWLEY, H. H., ed. The Old Testament and Modern 
Study. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951. 

SCHWEITZER, ALBERT. The Quest of the Historical 
Jesus, tr. W. Montgomery. New York: The Mac- 
millan Co., 1950. 

SMALLEY, BERYL. The Study of the Bible in the 
Middle Ages. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941. 

SPICQ, C. Esquisse d'une histoire de I'exe'gese latine 
au moyen dge. Paris: J. Vrin, 1944. 

WACH, JOACHIM. Das Verstehen, Grundzuge einer 
Geschichte der hermeneutischen Theorie im 19. 
Jahrhundert. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1926-33. 

WASZINK, J. H. "Allegorese," Reallexikon filr Antike 
und Christentum I. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1950. 
Pp. 283-93. 

WILLOUGHBY, HAROLD R., ed. The Study of the 
Bible Today and Tomorrow. Chicago: University 
of Chicago Press, 1947. 

102 See article "The Bible: Its Significance and Author- 
ity," pp. 3-31. 




I. Chronology 

A. From Creation to Abraham 

B. From Abraham to the Exodus 

C. From the Exodus to Solomon 

D. From Solomon to the Exile 

E. From the Exile to the Roman Conquest 

J. From the Roman Conquest to the Destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem 
II. Calendars 

A. Hebrew Calendar 

B. Hellenistic Calendar 

C. Festivals 
III. Metrology 

A. Measures of Length 

B. Measures of Distance 

C. Measures of Area 

D. Measures of Capacity 

E. Measures of Weight 

I. Chronology 

A. from Creation to Abraham. The gene- 
alogy of the early patriarchs (Gen. 5; 11*10-32) 
is cast into a chronological scheme whose figures 
according to the standard Hebrew text (fol- 
lowed by the King James Version) conflict with 
those in the Greek and Samaritan versions. In 
each division of Table I, column A shows the 
age of the patriarchs at the birth of their heir; 
column B, the number of their years thereafter; 
column C, their total lifetime. 

The scheme of Gen. 5 and 11:10-32 is strictly 
genealogical. This means that the summation of 
the figures shown in column A should give the 
number of years elapsed since the Creation. 
Hence the dates, anno mundi, 1656 for the 
Flood (Noah's six hundredth year) and 1946 for 
Abraham's birth. 

Such figures cannot be reconciled with the 
conclusions or hypotheses of modern science 
concerning the age of the world or the average 
life span of primitive man, unless it is assumed 
that the reckoning of times by the biblical 
authors or translators follows symbolical precon- 
ceptions whose nature or ratio cannot be ascer- 
tained. The analogy of early Mesopotamian 
dynastic lists may to a certain extent substantiate 
this assumption. 

IV. Numismatics 

A. Early Means of Exchange 

B. Persian Period 

C. Hellenistic Period 

D. Maccabean Period 

E. Roman Period 

1. Coinage of the Roman Administration 
(63 B.C -A.D. 66) 

2. Coinage of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 

3. Coinage of the Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 

F. Appendixes 

1. Money in the New Testament 

2. Illustrations of Selected Coins Current in 
Ancient Palestine 

a) Persian 

b) Hellenistic 

c) Maccabean 
a) Roman 

According to the Greek chronology, Methuse- 
lah survived the Flood by fourteen years, in 
contradiction to Gen. 7:23. The Hebrew dates 
his death in the year of the Flood. The fresh 
start to be made by Noah and his sons is further 
emphasized in the Samaritan, where Jared, 
Methuselah, and Lamech are made to die the 
year of the Flood, being presumably wiped out 
by the cataclysm. 

The low figures in column A of the Hebrew 
chronology, from Arpachshad to Nahor, account 
for the abnormal fact that all the patriarchs 
from Noah to Terah were still alive when Abra- 
ham was born. According to the Greek and the 
Samaritan, all of Abraham's forebears had died 
when he started on his journey to Canaan, as if 
to stress the beginning of a new era in biblical 

Events recorded in the biblical narratives cov- 
ering this period cannot be synchronized with 
events of world history. However, the story of 
the Flood is paralleled in early Mesopotamian 
literature by traditions which became embodied 
in the epic of Gilgamesh around the eighteenth 
century B.C. The story of the Tower of Babel 
possibly refers to the construction or the restora- 
tion of the temple tower Etemenenki at Baby- 
lon, the age of which is not ascertainable, al- 
though it antedates the second millennium B.C. 



B* From Abraham to the Exodus. The bib- 
lical data consist of a few genealogical indica- 
tions shown in Table II. 

That the genealogies were regarded as com- 
plete is confirmed by the prophecy of Gen. 
15:16, according to which the fourth generation 
after Jacob was to return to Canaan. However, 
the numerical indications recorded in column A 
of Table II are defective, and this makes 
it impossible directly to calculate the total 
length of the period, which has to be inferred 
from the following data: 

Gen. 12:4 Abraham's entry into Canaan, at 75 years 
Gen. 47:9 Jacob's migration to Egypt, at 130 years 
Exod. 12:40 (Heb.) Sojourn in Egypt, 430 years 
Exod. 12:40 (LXX, Samar.) Sojourn in Canaan 
and Egypt, 430 years 

Thus the years from the birth of Abraham 
to the Exodus can be tabulated as shown in 
Table III. 

The abnormal longevity of the patriarchs and 
the excessive number of years assigned to the 
generations from Abraham to Moses point to- 




LXX (Ed. Rahlfs) 










Adam ... 
Seth ... 
Enosh ... 











Kenan . , 









































































Arpachshad . ... 































































Abraham's birth 















Gen. 21:5; 25:7 
Gen 25-26- 35 '28 




1 QA 

Gen 47-28 



Exod. 6:16 



Exod. 6:18 




Exod 6-20 





Deut. 34:7 










From Abraham's entry into Canaan to Jacob's migration 



From Jacob's migration to the Exodus 



Total duration 





ward the artificial character of the biblical 
chronology, which aims at making the sojourn 
in Egypt exactly the double of (Hebrew), or 
equal to (LXX, Samaritan), the sojourn in 

The symbolic nature of the chronology of the 
patriarchs from Abraham to Moses makes it in- 
advisable to use the figures of the Bible for the 
computation of historical synchronisms, lest re- 

sults thus obtained should at best prove coinci 
dental, and possibly misleading. 

Most exegetes have abandoned the identifica- 
tion of Amraphel (Gen. 14:1) with Hammurabi. 
The once favored synchronism Abraham-Ham- 
murabi is therefore uncertain, even though it 
might obtain some support from linguistic and 
onomastic parallels between the patriarchal 
stories of Genesis and the cuneiform texts of 



Hebrew Patriarchs in Canaan 


Cuneiform documents of Mart, 18th century 
Hammurabi, 1728-1686 (dates revised after data 
from the Mari texts) 

Cuneiform documents of Nuzi, 15th century 



Hebron built 7 years before Zoan (Num. 13:22) 
Migration of the Hebrews into Egypt [?] 

14th century; Jericho besieged twice and destroyed 

Hypothesis of a partial Exodus and settlement of 

tribes in central Palestine 

The king "which knew not Joseph" (Exod. 1:8) , 

possibly Seti I 
The Exodus, after 1300 
Final destruction of Jericho (Vincent) and Joshua's 

conquest of Palestine, shortly after 1250 

The Philistines, hostile neighbors of Israel in the 
story of Samson (previous mentions of the Philis- 
tines in the Bible are anachronisms) 

David, king in Hebron, 1002-995 

David, king in Jerusalem, 995-962 

Reign of Solomon, 962-922 

Construction of the temple, from the 4th to the llth 
year of Solomon (I Kings 6:1, 38) , 959-952 



Capital Avaris (Zoan) , founded 1675 
Conquer Xois, 1594 
Expelled by Ahmose, 1567 

XVIII DYNASTY, 1546-1319 
Thutmose III, 1490-1436; campaigns in Syria 

Amenophis III, 1413-1377 

Amenophis IV (Akhenaton) , 1377-1360 (Cuneiform 
documents of Tell el-Amarna, 14th century) 

XIX DYNASTY, 1319-1200 

Seti I, 1319-1301 
Ramses II, 13014234 

Merneptah, 1234-1227, defeats Israel in Palestine, the 
5th year of his reign 

XX DYNASTY, 1200-1085 

Invasion of Egypt by the Sea Peoples, defeated by 
Ramses III, 1195-1164, and settlement of the 
Philistines in the Palestinian lowlands 

* Dynasties XVI-XVII are local (Theban) dynasties. 

Chronology of the Hyksos according to H. E. Winlock, The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes (New 
York: The Macmillan Co., 1947). New Empire dates after Borchardt-Edgerton. 



Mari (eighteenth century) . On the other hand, 
the customs of the early Hebrews, as described 
chiefly in the Jacob narratives, conform best to 
the social and legal conditions revealed by the 
cuneiform documents of Nuzi (fifteenth cen- 
tury) . 

Synchronisms with Egyptian history are 
equally hypothetical It is generally assumed 
that the migration of the Hebrews into Egypt 
may have occurred while the Hyksos kings of 
the Fifteenth Dynasty had their capital in the 
Delta, according to the tradition of Manetho, 
an Egyptian priest of the third century B.C. The 
Exodus most likely took place during the reign 
of Ramses II. The interval, which exceeds two 
and one half centuries, seems, however, not to 
be in harmony with the genealogical scheme of 
the Bible, which counts only four generations 
from Jacob to Moses. 

Although archaeologists still disagree upon 
the circumstances and date of the destruction of 
Jericho, miscellaneous data support the dating 
of Joshua's conquest of Palestine shortly after 
1250 B.C. 

The hypothetical and provisional character 
of the dates shown in Tables IV and V should be 
kept in mind. 

C. From the Exodus to Solomon. Chrono- 
logical indications from the historical books 
according to the Hebrew (followed by the King 

James Version) , together with the Greek vari- 
ants (Rahlfs* text of Septuagint) , may be tabu- 
lated in years as shown in Table VI. 

The chronology of the entire period tends to 
reckon with units, multiples, or fractions of 40 
years. In I Kings 6:1 the period extending from 
the Exodus to the construction of the temple 
in the fourth year of Solomon lasts 480 years 
(Hebrew and King James Version) , or 440 years 
(Greek), that is, respectively, 12 or 11 units of 
40 years. However, this conflicts with the de- 
tailed chronology of the historical books re- 
corded in the above table. The summation of 
the figures in the Hebrew column gives a total 
of 590 years from the Exodus to the death of 
Solomon, that is, 554 years to the construction 
of the temple, over against the 480 years of 
I Kings 6:1 in the Hebrew tradition. The last 
number may be explained as follows: The years 
of oppression, including the three years of 
Abimelech, who was never regarded as a legiti- 
mate ruler, amount to 1 14. There are therefore 
554114=440 years of Hebrew rule from the 
Exodus to the construction of the temple, which 
is precisely the number read by the Septuagint 
in I Kings 6:1. The Hebrew adds 40 years to 
cover the unrecorded duration of the leader- 
ship of Joshua, and the reign of Saul, thus mak- 
ing up the sum total of 480 years. 

The summation of the figures of the Greek 




A. The years of the Wandering (Num. 32:13) 40 

Leadership of Joshua ? 

B. Oppression. Cushan-rishathaim (Judg. 3:8) 8 

Othniel (Judg. 3:11) 40 

Oppression. Eglon, king of Moab (Judg. 3:14) 18 

Ehud (Judg. 3:30) 80 

Oppression. Jabin, king of Hazor (Judg, 4:3) 20 

Deborah-Barak (Judg. 5:31) 40 

Oppression. The Midianites (Judg. 6:1) . 7 

Gideon (Judg. 8:28) 40 

Rule of Abimelech (Judg. 9:22) 3 

Tola (Judg. 10:2) 23 

Jair (Judg. 10:3) 22 

Oppression. The Ammonites (Judg. 10:8) 18 

Jephthah (Judg. 12:7) 6 

Ibzan (Judg. 12:9) 7 

Elon (Judg.l2:ll) 10 

Abdon (Judg. 12:14) 8 

Oppression. The Philistines (Judg. 13:1) 40 

Samson (Judg. 15:20; 16:31) 20 

C. Eli, priest in Shiloh (I Sam. 4:18) 40 

Samuel. Ark in Kirjath-jearim (I Sam. 7:2) 20 

Saul,king ? 

David, king in Hebron (I Kings 2:11) }>4Q 

David, king in Jerusalem (I Kings 2:11) 33) 

Solomon, king (I Kings 11:42) - ;-;; 4Q 






















745 ' 



















Sheshonk of Egypt, XXII Dynasty (Ly 
bian) , raids Palestine, the 5th year o 
Rehoboam, ca. 918 B.C. (I Kings 14:25; I 
Chr. 12:2) 

Omri builds Samaria after 6 years of reigi 
in Tirzah, ca. 870 B.C. (I Kings 16:23-24) 
Shalmaneser III of Assyria, 859-824 B.C. 
fights Ahab and the Syrian confederates a 
Qarqar, ca. 853 B.C., Monolith of Shalma 

According to II Kings 3:7-27, the death o 
Jehoshaphat occurred some time after the 
accession of Joram of Israel, since both 
kings personally joined in the war against 

Ahaziah of Judah and Joram of Israel 
slain the same day by Jehu, 842 B.C. (11 
Kings 9:21-28) 

Ca. 841 B.C. Jehu pays tribute to Shalma- 
neser III of Assyria, 859-824 B.C. (Black 
Obelisk, and Annals) 

Ca. 738 B.C. Menahem pays tribute to Pulu 
(Tiglath-pileser III) of Assyria, 745-727 
B.C. (II Kings 15:19, and Assyrian docu- 

Pekah and Rezon of Syria besiege Jerusa- 
lem, ca. 734 B.C. (H Kings 16:5) 
Ca. 733-732 B.C., campaign of Tiglath- 
pileser HI in Palestine (Annals) 
Hoshea, enthroned by Tiglath-pileser III, 
ca. 732 B.C.; pays tribute to Shalmaneser V 
of Assyria, 727-722 B.C. (II Kings 17:3) ; 
taken into captivity, ca. 724 B.C. (II Kings 

3 years' siege of Samaria (II Kings 17:5) 
ends between December 722, accession of 
Sargon II of Assyria, 722-705 B.C., and the 
pring of 721 B.C. (Assyrian documents) 






7 days 



20 (22) 









Jotham, king 

38 (40) 
18 (29) 







1 mo. 


8+ (10) 



6- (20) 







TABLE VII. Concluded 












Sennacherib of Assyria, 705-681 B.C., in- 

vades Judah, the 14th year of Hezekiah, 

ca. 701 B.C. (II Kings 18:13, and Assyrian 



45 (55) 


Taken prisoner by king of Assyria, possibly 

Esarhaddon, 681-669 B.C., or rather, Ashur- 

banipal, 669-626 B.C. (II Chr. 33:11) 







Deuteronomic reform, the 18th year of 

Josiah, ca. 622 B.C. (II Kings 22:3; 23:23; 

II Chr. 34:8; 35:19) 

612 B.C., fall of Nineveh, beginning of Neo- 

Babylonian Empire; Assyrian kings fight 

till 609 B.C. 

Josiah killed in battle at Megiddo, against 

Necho of Egypt, XXVI (Saite) Dynasty 

(II Kings 23:29; II Chr. 35:22-24) 




Taken into captivity by Necho (II Kings 

23:33-34; II Chr. 36:3) 




Enthroned by Necho (II Kings 23:34; II 

Chr. 36:4) 

1st year of Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, 

605-562 B.C., 4th of Jehoiakim,, ca. 605 B.C., 

prophecy on the ruin of Judah (Jer. 25:1) 

7th year of Nebuchadrezzar, ca. 599 B.C., 

deportation of 3,023 Jews (Jer. 52:28) 




Taken into captivity the 8th year of Nebu- 

chadrezzar, ca. 598 B.C. (II Kings 24:12; 

II Chr. 36:10) 




Enthroned by Nebuchadrezzar (II Kings 


18th year of Nebuchadrezzar, 10th of Zede- 

kiah, ca. 588 B.C., Jerusalem besieged (Jer. 

32:1-2) ; deportation of 832 persons from 

Jerusalem (Jer. 52:29) 

19th year of Nebuchadrezzar, 587 B.C., 

Jerusalem destroyed (II Kings 25:8; Jer. 


23rd year of Nebuchadrezzar, ca. 583 B.C., 

deportation of 745 Jews (Jer. 52:30) 

Jehoiachin received by Evil-merodach 

(Awel-Marduk) of Babylon, 562-560 B.C., 

in the year of his accession (Jer. 52:31) 

gives a total of 580 years for the entire period, 
that is, 544 years from the Exodus to the con- 
struction of the temple, and consequently 544 
114=430 years of Hebrew rule. The period from 
the Exodus to the construction of Solomon's 
temple is thus regarded as strictly equal to the 
sojourn of the Hebrews in Canaan and in Egypt 
according to Exod. 12:40 (LXX) . 

The above remarks demonstrate the conven- 
tional character of the biblical chronology of 
this period, and the inadvisability of using its 
figures for the computation of historical syn- 
chronisms. Attempts at relating the chronology 
of Joshua-Judges to the vicissitudes of the fast 
dwindling power of Egypt lead to highly ques- 
tionable results. 



The dates of David and Solomon, if one is to 
assume the historicity of the numbers of their 
regnal years, may be deduced from the chro- 
nology of their successors, the kings of Judah 
and of Israel. 

Thus the period from the Exodus to the death 
of Solomon can be outlined as shown at the 
end of Table V. 

The generally accepted date for the death 
of Solomon, and consequently Rehoboam's ac- 
cession and the schism, is 933-932 B.C. Modern 
historians tend to depart from this date for the 
following reasons: II Chr. 16:1 states that 
Baasha was still reigning in the thirty-sixth year 
of Asa. If one were to follow the chronology of 
the author of Kings, the thirty-sixth year of Asa 
would fall after Baasha's death. If the indica- 
tion of the Chronicler is to be taken into ac- 
count, and if the number of the regnal years of 
the Israelite kings is not to be increased drasti- 
cally, the reign of Rehoboam ought to be short- 
ened by a decade or so. Thus the death of 
Solomon would have taken place ca. 922 B.C. 1 

*Cf. William F. Albright's discussion in "The Chro- 
nology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel," Bulletin of the 
American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 100 (1945), 
p. 20, n. 14. 

D. From Solomon to the Exile. The biblical 
data consist of a double set of chronological 
indications recorded in I and II Kings and 
parallels, (a) Regnal years of each king, some- 
times with their age when enthroned, (b) Syn- 
chronisms between the kings of Judah and the 
kings of Israel, sometimes with synchronisms 
with the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia. 

These data are drawn from official annals of 
the kingdoms and, on account of their historical 
character, can be used as the framework of the 
chronological succession of the kings of Judah 
and Israel, with reference to events known and 
dated from other sources such as the fall of 
Samaria, which occurred shortly after the acces- 
sion of Sargon II of Assyria. 

However, the interpretation of the data is 
made difficult for the following reasons: (a) 
There are occasional divergent readings in the 
Hebrew and the Greek, (b) There is also fre- 
quent disagreement between the synchronisms 
recorded in the Bible and the absolute numbers 
of regnal years. 

Whereas Wellhausenian critics inclined to 
give up the synchronisms as purely conventional 
and therefore unreliable, Joachim Begrich has 
proved conclusively that most of the variants 




Cyrus, 539-530 B.C. (count- 
ing from the conquest of 

Cambyses, 530-522 B.C. 

Darius I, 522486 B,C. 

Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) 486- 
465 B.C. 

Artaxerxes I, Longimanus, 
465-424 B.C. 

Xerxes II, 424-423 B.C. 
Darius II, 423-404 B.C. 
Artaxerxes II, Mnemon, 
404-358 B.C. 

Artaxerxes III, 358-338 B.C. 
Arses, 338-336 B.C. 
Darius III, Codomannus, 
336-331 B.C. 

Edict for the return of the Jews, the 1st (formal) year of Cyrus, ca. 538 B.C. 
(Ezra 1:1) 

Zerubbabel undertakes to restore the temple, the 2nd year after the return, 
ca. 537 B.C. (Ezra 3:8) ; work interrupted (Ezra 4:5, 24) 

Jewish community established at Elephantine, before 525 B.C. (conquest of 
Egypt) ; papyri range from 500 to 400 B.C. 

Work at the temple resumed the 2nd year of Darius, ca. 520 B.C. (Ezra 4:24; 
Hag. 1:15) ; completed the 6th year of Darius, ca. 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:15) 

Opposition to the Jews (Ezra 4:6) 

Opposition to the Jews (Ezra 4:7-23) 

Return of Ezra, the 7th year of Artaxerxes, ca. 458 B.C. (Ezra 7:7, according 

to the actual order of the book) 

Nehemiah, governor of Judah, from the 20th to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, 

ca. 445-433 B.C. (Neh. 2:1; 5:14) 

Nehemiah back to Persia the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, ca. 433 B.C., and 2nd 

mission to Palestine (Neh. 13:6) 

Return of Ezra, the 7th year of Artaxerxes, ca. 397 B.C. (Ezra 7:7, as suggested 
by several exegetes for reasons of internal evidence) 



and of the so-called erroneous synchronisms re- 
sulted from several attempts at systematizing 
historical data, and had an objective value. 2 At 
the same time, he was successful in explaining 

8 Die Chronologic der Konige von Israel und Juda 
(Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1929). 

rationally the origin of many discrepancies. Yet 
his effort to fit all data goes too far, and the 
proportion of trivial errors in the transmission 
of the text is probably greater than he would 
Some of the difficulties are of a historical 





SELEUCIDS (Asia Minor and Syria' 

(Alexander the Great, 336-323 B.C. ) 

Ptolemy I, Soter, 323-283 B.C. 

Ptolemy II, Philadelphia 
[285]283-246 B.C. 

Ptolemy III, 246-221 B.C. 

Ptolemy IV, 221-203 B.C. 

Ptolemy V, 203-181 B.C. 

Ptolemies continue under 
Roman protectorate until 
30 B.C., when Egypt becomes 
a Roman province 

Seleucus I, Nicator, 312- 
280 B.C. 

Antiochus I, 280-261 B.C. 
Antiochus II, 261-247 B.C. 
Seleucus II, 247-226 B.C. 
Seleucus III, 226-223 B.C. 

Antiochus III, the Great, 223- 
187 B.C. 

Seleucus IV, 187-175 B.C. 

Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, 
175-163 B.C. 

Antiochus V, 163-162 B.C. 

Demetrius I, 162-150 B.C. 

(Fall of Tyre, ca. 332 B.C.) 
Seleucid Era begins, October, 312 B.C. 

In Alexandria, version of the LXX 
Papyri of Zeno, agent of Ptolemy II 

Following the battle of Panion, Palestine, 
lost to the Ptolemies, passes under the control 
of the Seleucids, 198 B.C. 

Persecution of the Jews, pollution of the 
temple, 167 B.C. (I Mace. 1:57) 


Alexander Balas, usurper, 

150-145 B.C. 

Antiochus VI, 145-142/1 B.C. 

Demetrius II, 145-139/8 B.C. 

Antiochus VII, Sidetes, 139/8- 
129 B.C. 

Seleucids continue amidst 
rivalries until Syria becomes 
a Roman province, 65 B.C. 

Judas, 166-160 B.C.; temple purified, 164 B.C. 
(I Mace. 4:52) 

Jonathan, 160-142 B.C., high priest, 152 B.C. 
(I Mace. 10:21) 

Simon, 142-134 B.C.; recognized by Demetrius, 
142 B.C. (I Mace. 13:41) 

John Hyrcanus I, 134-104 B.C. 
Judas Aristobulus I, 104-103 B.C. 
Alexander Jannaeus, 103-76 B.C. 
Alexandra, queen, 76-67 B.C. 
Aristobulus II, 67-63 B,c. 

Pornpey takes Jerusalem, 63 B.C. 

Maccabean dynasty continues nominally: 
Hyrcanus II, 63-40 B.C. 
Antigonus Mattathias, 40-37 B.c. 

Antipater and his son Herod rise to effective 






First Triumvirate, 60 B.C.: 
Pompey, Caesar, Crassus 

Second Triumvirate, 43 

Antony, Octavius, Lepi- 

Augustus (Octavius), 31 
B.C.-A.D. 14 

Tiberius, A.D. 14-37 

Caligula, A.D. 37-41 
Claudius, A.D. 41-54 

Nero, AJX 54-68 

Galba, Otho, VitelliuS; 
A.D. 68 

Vespasian, A.D. 69-79 

Titus, A.D. 79-81 
Domitian, A.D. 81-96 
Nerva, AJD. 96-98 
Trajan, A.D. 98-117 
Hadrian, A.D. 117-138 







Conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey, 63 B.C. 
Hyrcanus II, 63-40 B.C. 

Antigonus Mattathias, 40-37 B.C. 

Herod the Great, nominated, 40 B.C.; be- 
gan to reign 37 B.C.; died, spring of 4 B.C. 

4 B.C.-A.D. 34 

Agrippa I, 
A.D. 34-44 

Agrippa II, 
A.D. 53-93 



4 B.C.-A.D. 40 

Agrippa I, 
A.D. 40-44 

Agrippa II, 
A.D. 54/5-93 

4 B.C.-A.D. 6 


A.D. 6-41 


Pilate in 


A.D. 26-36) 

Agrippa I, 
A.D. 41-44 

A.D. 44-66 

(Felix in 

office, A.D. 52- 

60; Festus, 

in office, 

A.D. 61-62) 

First revolt of the Jews, be- 
gins A.D. 66 

Fall of Jerusalem, A.D. 70 
Fall of Masada, A.D. 73 

Second revolt of the Jews, 
A.D. 132-135 

Foundation of Colonia Aelia 
Capitolina over the ruins 
of Jerusalem, A.D. 136 


Jesus born before the spring of 4 B.C. 

Baptism of Jesus, the 15th year of 
Tiberius, A.D. 28/29 

Crucifixion (year uncertain) 

Damascus controlled by Aretas, ca. 
A.D. 37-40; conversion of Paul (II 
Cor. 11:32) 

The apostles persecuted (Acts 12) 

Gallio proconsul in Achaia, A.D. 51- 
52; Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:12) 

Paul arrested under Felix, in prison 
for 2 years, appears before Festus 
(Acts 24:27-25:27) 



nature, such as the confusion of the period ex- 
tending from the death of Baasha to the acces- 
sion of Omri, or the obscurity of the circum- 
stances which marked the accession of the kings 
of Judah from Jehoash to Jotham. 

Technical difficulties are equally perplexing. 
Such is the relation of regnal years to calendar 
years. It is generally admitted that the Hebrew 
annalists practiced antedating that is, counting 
as first year of the king the remaining portion of 
the calendar year in which his accession took 
place. Postdating, however, may have prevailed 
in Judah from Manasseh to Zedekiah, the first 
official year being then the full calendar year 
following the accession. 

Another difficulty arises from the reckoning of 
New Year's Day. The year normally began with 
the autumnal equinox. One may question 
Begrich's affirmation that the practice of begin- 
ning the year in the spring was introduced in 
Judah before 620 B.C. 

In Table VII the initial and final dates of 
reigns are borrowed from William F. Albright, 
who revised the chronology of Begrich in the 
light of intervening publications. 3 In the col- 
umns of regnal years figures in parentheses are 
those of the Hebrew Bible (and King James 
Version), before adjustment. Horizontal lines 
mark interruptions in the normal succession of 
the kings. All dates are approximate. 

JE. From the Exile to the Roman Conquest. 
Whereas the books of Kings and parallels con- 
stitute a suitable framework for the chronology 
of the Hebrew kingdoms, the documentation of 
the period extending from the Exile to the 
Roman conquest is scanty and discontinuous. 
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which may be 
described as a collection of miscellaneous docu- 
ments without a strict chronological order, con- 
tain a few synchronisms with Persian history. 

After a gap of more than two centuries, a few 
dates of interest for the history of the Hebrews 
under the rule or in the sphere of influence of 
the Hellenistic kingdoms of Egypt and Syria are 
available in the books of the Maccabees and in 
the writings of Josephus. 

In Tables VIII and IX the chronology of the 
Persian and Hellenistic kingdoms is used as the 

Op. tit., pp. 16-21. 

framework for dated events from Hebrew his- 

F. From the Roman Conquest to the Destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem. The succession of events 
which brought about the overthrow of the re- 
publican institutions of the Romans and the list 
of the emperors, as well as of the local rulers 
appointed or recognized by Rome for the con- 
trol of Palestine, constitute the framework of a 
chronology of the Gospels and early apostolic 

Unfortunately, the chronological indications 
given by the Gospels and the Acts of the 
Apostles are few and of difficult interpretation. 
The date of the birth of Jesus is not known with 
certainty. Our Christian Era, derived from the 
chronology of Dionysius Exiguus, is several years 
late. According to Matt. 2:1, 19 Jesus was born 
some time before the death of Herod, which 
occurred in the spring of 4 B.C. Luke 2:2 dates 
the birth of Jesus with reference to a census 
taken by Cyrenius (Quirinius) , governor of 
Syria. No precision can be obtained from this 
statement on account of unsettled difficulties of 
interpretation and even of translation. 

The extensive synchronism recorded by Luke 
3:1 dates the baptism of Jesus and the beginning 
of his ministry from the fifteenth year of Ti- 
berius, that is, A.D. 28/29, depending on the 
reckoning of the first regnal year as A.D. 14 or, 
postdating, 15. A few exegetes, interpreting 
strictly the statement that Jesus was "about 
thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23) , have suggested 
that the years of Tiberius be counted from the 
time when he was associated with the govern- 
ment of Augustus, ca. A.D. 11-12, and that the 
date of the baptism should be antedated accord- 
ingly. This manner of reckoning, however, finds 
little support in the literature of the age. 

On the other hand, John 2:20 states that in 
the time of the (first) passover recorded (John 
2:13, 23) forty-six years had elapsed since the 
beginning of the construction of the temple, in 
the eighteenth year of Herod (20/19 B.C.) . If 
one starts from 19 B.C., the forty-sixth year is A.D. 

John's various references to Jewish festivals 
have been used to fix the duration of the min- 
istry of Jesus, and consequently the date of his 






John 2:13 passover 
John 5:1 a feast 
John 6:4 passover 
John 7:2 tabernacles 
John 10:22 dedication 
John 11:55 passover 

passover 28 
text emended 

passover 29 

" passover 28 
passover 29 

passover 30 

passover 28 
=passover 29 
passover 30 

passover 31 

Total duration of the public life 

over one year 

over two years 

over three years 



death. According to divergent interpretations, 
the interval between the Baptism and the Cruci- 
fixion is over one year, or over two years, or 
over three years. 

On account of these variations, Table X re- 
cords only those events from the Gospels or the 
Acts which can be synchronized objectively with 
the course of general history. 

Table XI shows alternate arrangements of 
the recording of Jewish festivals during the 
public life of Jesus, the last Passover referred 
to by John 11:55 coinciding with the time of 
the Passion. The dates, entirely hypothetical, 
assume that the Baptism took place in the early 
months of A.D. 28. 

H. Calendars 

A. Hebrew Calendar. The Hebrew calendar 
was based on the empirical observation of the 
phases of the moon. The year consisted of twelve 
lunar months, which were counted each from 
the first appearance of the crescent of the new 
moon (neornenia) . The lunar year being ap- 
proximately eleven days shorter than the solar 
year, it was necessary to repeat the last month 
every two or three years in order to keep calen- 
dar dates in accordance with the seasons. The 
scientific determination of the neomenias and 
of the leap year of thirteen months was probably 
not introduced until after the Talmudic period. 

The Israelites first called their months by 
Canaanite names, four of which are recorded in 
the Bible. Postexilic and late Judaism adopted 
Babylonian names, which were transliterated in 
Hebrew, and are still in use in die modern 
Jewish calendar. Table XII gives both series. 
The correspondence with the months of the 
Julian calendar is only approximate. 

The first day of nisdn marks the beginning of 
the year with regard to the computation of pass- 
over. For other purposes the year began in 
autumn, on the first of tishrt, which was sol- 
emnized as New Year's Day (rdsh hashshdndh) . 

The ancient Hebrews had no era for the re- 
cording of dates, which were computed by refer- 
ence to some memorable event such as, under 
the monarchy, the accession year of the reigning 


The sabbath or seventh day of the week now 
begins on Friday at dusk, since the days are 
counted from sunset to sunset. The periodic 
week replaced sometime before the Exile the 
ancient division of each month according to the 
phases of the moon. 

B. Hellenistic Calendar. A calendar of Mace- 
donian origin was introduced by the Hellenistic 
rulers of Palestine, but was not generally ac- 
cepted by the Jews. The lunar months of the 
original Macedonian calendar had been trans- 
formed in Egypt into months of thirty days, to 
which five days were added after the twelfth 
month to approximate the solar year. In the 
regions ruled by the Seleucids the Macedonian 
calendar was harmonized with the Nee-Baby- 
lonian calendar of twelve lunar months, and an 
additional month on leap years. Thus the cor- 
respondence of Seleucid and Neo-Babylonian 
dates can be established with some accuracy. 

In Antioch, following the adoption of the 
Seleucidan Era (312 B.C.) , New Year's Day was 
the first of 'YTrsppepeTccTcx; (=tishrt) . During the 
Roman period, the Syro-Macedonian months 
were often equated to the Julian months, in this 

'Y-rrcpJkpeTouoq October 













Top-in aioe; 








March -April 









July- August 








October-Novem ber 




December- January 



* a dhdr (repeated 


on leap years) 




In Babylon, however, the beginning of the 
year continued to be celebrated in the spring. 
In free cities having particular eras, the first 
of AToc,, which in Macedonia was regarded as 
New Year's Day, was often caused to coincide 
with the anniversary of the era. 

C. Festivals. In addition to the sabbath and 
the neomenia, the Jews kept the following festi- 

Pesah, Passover, 14th-15th of ni$an, and the follow- 
ing seven days 

SMbhtfdth, Pentecost, the 50th day after pfyah 
R6sh hashshanah, New Year's Day, 1st of tishrt 
Ydm kippfir, Day ot Atonement, 10th of tishrt 
Sukkdth, Tabernacles, 15th-23rd of tishrt 
ft a nukkah, dedication of the temple by Judas Mac- 
cabee (165 B.C.) , 25th of ki$lew and the following 
seven days 

P&rtm, commemoration of the events recorded in 
the book of Esther, 14th-15th of **dhar (second 
'*dhar on leap years) 

Table XIII gives by way of illustration the 
dates of the main festivals according to the 

standard computation of the modern Jewish 
calendar. Years are counted according to the 
so-called "World Era/' introduced by the Tal- 
mudists. Leap years are marked with an asterisk. 

HI. Metrology 

A. Measures of Length. In the Old Testa- 
ment standard units of length are named by 
reference to parts of the human body. (See 
Table XIV.) 

Surveyors and architects used a measuring 
"reed," the length of which was expressed in 
cubits. In Judg. 3:16 the Hebrew im (gdmedh) , 
otherwise unknown, is interpreted "cubit" in 
the King James Version. 

The current ratio between the units of length 
is shown in the following chart: 

1 cubit = 2 spans 

= 6 handbreadths 
= 24 fingers 

1 span = 3 handbreadths 

= 12 fingers 

1 handbreadth = 4 fingers 











R6sh hashshanah 
1 tishr! 

Sep. 20 

Sep. 10 

Sep. 28 

Sep. 17 

Sep. 6 

Sep. 26 

Sep. 15 

Oct. 3 

Y6m Kippur 
10 tishr! 

Sep. 29 

Sep. 19 

Oct. 7 

Sep. 26 

Sep. 15 

Oct. 5 

Sep. 24 

Oct. 12 

Sukk6th (first day) 
15 tishrl 

Oct. 4 

Sep. 24 

Oct. 12 

Oct. 1 

Sep. 20 

Oct. 10 

Sep. 29 

Oct. 17 

#nukkah (first day) 
25 kislew 

Dec. 13 

Dec. 2 

Dec. 20 

Dec. 10 

Nov. 29 

Dec. 18 

Dec. 7 

Dec. 26 

Purim (first day) 
14 *dhar 

(on leap years) 

Mar. 1 

Mar. 19 

Mar. 8 

Feb. 26 

Mar. 17 

Mar. 6 

Mar. 24 

Mar. 13 

Pe"$afr (first night) 
14 nisan 

Mar. 30 

Apr. 17 

Apr. 6 

Mar. 26 

Apr. 15 

Apr. 4 

Apr. 22 

Apr. 11 

6 siwan 

May 20 

Jim. 7 

May 27 

May 16 

Jun. 5 

May 25 

Jun. 12 

Jun. 1 





HttN 'ammah 



fHT zdreth 



riDta fdphah, (dphah 



JDSK 'egba* 





The cubit which was to be used in Ezekiel's 
new Jerusalem is described as equal to a "cubit 
and a handbreadth" of the current system 
(Ezek. 40:5; 43:13). This is not to be inter- 
preted as an innovation, but rather as a return 
to a system of measures used for the buildings 
of Solomon (II Chr. 3:3) which may be restored 
as follows: 

1 cubit = 2 spans 

= 7 handbreadths 
= 28 fingers 

1 span = 3i/fc handbreadths 

= 14 fingers 

1 handbreadth = 4 fingers 

The value of the cubit cannot be determined 
directly, but only by deduction. The inscription 
of Siloam attributes to the aqueduct of Heze- 
kiah a length of 1,200 cubits. The actual meas- 
urement of the aqueduct, from the spring to 
the pool, being 533.1 meters, or 1,749 feet, the 
value of the cubit is therefore 444.25 millimeters, 
or 17.49 inches. Hence the Hebrew system of 
linear measures may tentatively be expressed as 
shown in Table XV. 

In the New Testament the following terms 
are used for measures of length: 

triixu*;, "cubit." Considered as equivalent to li/fc feet 
of the Hellenistic system of measures. 

'OPYUI&, "fathom." Approximately 1.84 meters, or 
7244 inches. 

B. Measures of Distance. In the Old Testa- 
ment distances are not measured directly, but 
are suggested by such expressions as "three 

days' journey" (Gen. 30:36) , "seven days' jour- 
ney" (Gen. 31:23). 

Distance is measured in the New Testament 
according to the following: 

crrdSiov, "furlong" (KJV) , "stadion/' or an evalua- 
tion of distance in "miles" (RSV) . The Alex- 
andrine stadion equals 184.83 meters, or 606 feet 
2 inches. 

niAtov, "mile." The Roman mile was usually con- 
sidered as equal to 8 stadia, thus approximately 
1,478 meters, or 4,879 feet. The Jews, however, 
regarded it as the equivalent of 14 of a parasang 
(a Persian measure of distance) , or 7i/<j stadia, 
thus approximately 1,386 meters, or 4,546 feet. 

666q crocppd-rou, "a sabbath day's journey" (Acts 1:12) . 
According to Josephus, this is a distance of 6 
stadia, thus about 1,109 meters, or 3,637 feet. 

C. Measures of Area. Only one specific meas 
ure of area is found: 

W, cdmedh, "acre" (I Sam. 14:14; Isa. 5:10). As 
much land as a team of oxen (tfmedh) can 
plow in one day. 

The area of a piece of ground can also be 
determined by the quantity of seed required 
for sowing (I Kings 18:32). 

D. Measures of Capacity. Table XVI shows 
Old Testament measures of capacity. 

tldmer and kor have the same capacity; also 
'Sphah and bath; *dmer and *i$sardn are syno- 
nyms. In Ezekiel, and later, the kor is reserved 
for liquids. In Isa. 40:12 tfte, shalish, "one 
third" (of an *ephah) , is rendered by "measure" 
in the King James and Revised Standard Ver- 





















"1DH homer 




13 kor 

measure cor 

rn.e3.sure cor 

drv and. lid u id 

Itf Uthekh 

half homer 



Hfl H *4phah 

ephah measure 

eph<ih measure 


J"n bath 



ary ^ 
lid u id 

flKD s**ah 




pn hin . 



I0y *6mer 




P1tt>p *issardn 

tenth deal 

tenth Dart ^of eohah^ 


Ip qabh 
3f> logh .... 



dry and liquid 



The ratio between the units of capacity is 
known from biblical and extrabiblical sources, 
mostly Hellenistic. It is shown in the following 


1 hdmer (kor) = 2 Uthekh 
= 10 'tphah 
= 30 ?"ah 
= 100 Corner 
= 180 qabh 
= 720 logh 

I Uthekh = 5 'ephah 

= 15 ?"ah 
= 50 'dmer 
= 90 qabh 
= 360 logh 

I'tphah = 3 fah 

= 10 Corner 
= 18 qabh 
= 72 logh 

1 ?"ah = 3 1/3 Corner 

= 6 
= 24 

1 *<5mer (*issar<5n) = 1 4/5 qabh 
= 7 1/5 Jog/i 

I qabh = 4 Jog/i 

I kor = 10 

= 720 logh 

I bath = 6Wn 

= 18 qabh 

= 72 logh 

1 ftfn = 3 qabh 

= 4 Zog/z 

The evaluation of the Hebrew measures of 
capacity in units of modern systems remains 
thus far uncertain. Two restored jars from 
Lachish, marked respectively with a royal seal 
and a private seal, have been assumed to con- 
tain one bath each, on account of their simi- 
larity with a jar stamped bath lammelekh, 
"royal bath" of which only fragments were re- 
covered/ The latter, however, was certainly 

Charles H. Inge, "Post Scriptum on Ancient Hebrew 
Inscriptions/' Palestine Exploration Quarterly for 1941, 
pp. 106-9. 

smaller than the former two. William F. Al- 
bright has shown that the big Lachish jars were 
possibly twice as capacious as the jars labeled 
"royal bath" 5 

The average volume of the two restored jars 
from Lachish is 2,806.096 cubic inches, equiva- 
lent to 45.982 liters, or 12.147 U.S. gallons. If, 
according to Albright's hypothesis, they repre- 
sent a double bath standard, the system of He- 
brew measures of capacity may tentatively be 
expressed as shown in Table XVII. 

The hypothetical character of Table XVII 
must be kept in mind. It does not agree with 
evaluations of Hebrew measures in terms of 
Hellenistic or Roman standards, e.g., bath= 
jieTprjTrjq (approximately 39 liters, or 10.3 U.S. 
gallons) , and logh=sextarius (approximately 
0.53 liters, or 1.12 U.S. pints) . Such evaluations, 
formulated by ancient authors, do not express a 
strict equivalence, but rather a comparison, as 
we assimilate the yard to the meter, or the quart 
to the liter. 

Measures of capacity in the New Testament 
fall into two classes: 

a) Names of measures transcribed from the 

pdroq, "measure" = Hebrew bath 
K6poq, "measure" = Hebrew kor 
ord-rov, "measure" = Hebrew $*'ah 

b) Hellenistic and Roman measures: 

firkin" (KJV) ; "measure" (RSV) . Liquid 
measure. About 39 liters, or 10.3 U.S. gallons. 

measure" (KJV) , "quart" (RSV) . Dry meas- 
ure. About 1.08 liters, or 0.98 U.S. dry quart. 

(Latin modius) , "bushel" (Matt. 5:15). Dry 
measure. About 8.49 liters, or 7.68 U.S. dry quarts. 

(Latin sextarius) , "pot" (Mark 7:4). Dry 
and liquid measure. About 0.53 liter, or 0.96 U.S. 
dry pint, or 1.12 U.S. liquid pints. 

In the last two instances, however, the stress 
is not on the metrological value of the units 

5 "The Excavation of Tell Beit Mirsim," Annual of the 
American Schools of Oriental Research, XXI-XXII (1941- 
43), 58, n. 7. 







hdmer kdr 


229 913 

60.738 gal. 

6.524 bu. 




30.369 gal. 

3.262 bu. 

*Sphah bath 



6.073 gal. 

20.878 qt. 




6.959 qt. 




1.012 gal. 

*6mer = *iss&rdn 



1.349 qt. 

2.087 qt. 
1.159 qt. 




0.674 pt. 



E. Measures of WeightOld Testament 
measures of weight and their equivalents may 
be seen in Table XVIII. 

The current ratio between the units of weight, 
as established from biblical and extrabiblical 
evidence, is shown as follows: 

1 kikkar = 60 maneh 
s= 3,000 she'qel 
= 6,000 bdqa* 
= 60,000 gerah 

I maneh = 

Isheqel = 

50 she'qel 
100 Uqti 
I, QQQ gerah 
2 beqa? 
20 gerah 
10 gerah 

This system may have superseded another 
scale of weights, which Ezekiel would have re- 
stored in his ideal theocracy (Ezek. 45:12), and 
which may be expressed as follows: 

1 kikkar = 60 maneh 

= 3,600 she'qel 

= 7,200 beqa? 

= 72,000 gerah 
1 maneh =: 60 sheqel 

= 120 he-qa* 

1 shtqel = 2 beqa* 

= 20 gerah 

1 btqa* = 10 gerah 

The value of the shtqel, which is the basic 
unit of both systems, can be determined induc- 
tively from stone weights discovered in the 
course of archaeological excavations. The fol- 
lowing averages were obtained from lists of 
weights compiled in 1932, and from material 
recently discovered at Beth Zur, Ain Shems, 

Megiddo, Lachish, Tell Beit Mirsim, and Tell 
en-Nasbeh. e Dubious or defective samples have 
been excluded. 

A first series of weights bears the conventional 
sign for shdqel, followed eventually with an in- 
dication of the number of standard units. Fre- 
quent multiples are 2, 4, 8, and 16 shekels. Aver- 
age weight: 11.424 grams, or 176 29 grains. Unin- 
scribed weights are often slightly lighter. 

Some weights marked D'fl, pdyim, average 
7,624 grams, or 117.65 grains. If pdyim is cor- 
rectly interpreted "two thirds," the correspond- 
ing unit would be 11.436 grams, or 176.47 grains. 
These weights, together with a few uninscribed 
samples, might therefore be regarded as current 
fractions of the she'qel standard. 

A few weights marked jrps, beqa\ average 
6.112 grams, or 94.32 grains. Some uninscribed 
weights come close to these figures. If the beqcf 
weights are considered as half shekels (see 
above) , the corresponding unit would be a 
weight of 12.224 grams, or 188.64 grains, notice- 
ably heavier than the units of the previous 
series. They seem to represent a different stand- 

A few weights marked tpa, negeph, average 
9.875 grams, or 152.39 grains, and compare with 
some uninscribed material. They are consider- 
ably lighter than the she'qel weights, and prob- 
ably belong to a different standard. 

Table XIX gives the equivalents of the entire 
series of Hebrew weights in metric notation and 
in weights avoirdupois. 

Georges A. Barrois, "M&rologie dans la Bible," Revue 
Biblique, XLI (1982), 50-76. O. R. Sellers, The Citadel 
of Beth Zur (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1933), p. 60. 
Elihu Grant and G. E. Wright, A in Shems Excavations V 
(Haverford: 1939), p. 159, Pis. LII-LIII. R. S. Lamon 
and G. M. Shipton, Megiddo, Seasons of 1925-34, Strata 
1-V (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), PI. 





133 kikkar 



j"UG maneh . 

pound, maneh 


^p# sheqel 



tfPS be'aa* 

bekah, half a shekel 

beka, half a shekel 

rr-U serah 





(1 maneh = 50 shekels) 

(1 maneh = 60 shekels) 






34.272 kg. 
571.2 g. 
11.424 g. 
5.712 g. 
0.571 g. 

75.558 Ib. 
20.148 oz. 
176.29 gr. 
88.14 gr. 
8.81 gr. 

41.126 kg. 
685.44 g. 
5.712 g. 
0.571 g. 

88.485 Ib. 
24.178 oz. 
176.29 gr. 
88.14 gr. 
8.81 gr. 







Few allusions are made to weights in the New 
Testament. The words TotXocvTov, "talent," and 
\ivct (Hebrew mdneh) , "pound," refer, not to 
weights, but to sums of money (see below) . 

In John 12:3; 19:39, Xhpoc is a Greek inter- 
pretation of the Roman libra, "pound," about 
326 grams, or 0.719 pound avoirdupois. 

IV. Numismatics 

A. Early Means of Exchange. Among the 
Canaanites and the Hebrews, largely devoted to 
pastoral life, the sheep, or its equivalent in 
precious metal, constituted the earliest standard 
for commercial transactions, Thus the Septua- 
gint translates the Hebrew nta^p, q e sitah f by 
d|ivoq, diav/ccc., "lamb" or "ewe." The ingots of 
metal had to be weighed out in each transaction, 
since their value and purity were not officially 
guaranteed. Hence sums of money were counted 
according to standards of weight, as in Gen. 
23:16. In the King James Version the rendering 
of m5>B>p, qesitah, and *|D3, keseph, "silver/* by 
"pieces of money," or "pieces of silver," consti- 
tutes an anachronism, inasmuch as it assumes 
the early use of coined currency, which was not 
extant among the Hebrews until after the Exile. 

B. Persian Period. Coins are mentioned for 
the first time in the books of Ezra and Nehe- 
miah, and in I Chr. 29:7, where their use is at- 
tributed to David by anachronism. 

The Hebrew words D* J3T7K, 'adharkdnim, and 
D3iCDYi, dark e mdmm f "drams," probably refer 
to the Persian daric, a gold coin issued by 
Darius, weighing 8.41 grams, or 130 grains. 

Silver coins weighing 5.60 grams, or 86.4 
grains, corresponding to one twentieth of the 
weight of silver equivalent to the gold standard, 
were known as silver darics, or Median shekels. 
It is not clear whether Neh. 5:15 and 10:32 
refer to these Median shekels or to weighed 
silver. The interpretation of nits, mdneh, "pound 
of silver" (Ezra 2:69; Neh. 7:70-72) , as a sum of 
100 Median shekels is also uncertain. 

A few silver coins of uncertain denomination 
found in southern Palestine bear the Hebrew 
letters nm, interpreted Y^hMh, the Persian 
province of Judea. 

C. Hellenistic Period. Greek currency pre- 
vailed in Palestine after the conquest of Alex- 
ander the Great. The standard was the silver 
drachma, the weight of which was reduced from 
4.32 grams, or 66.6 grains, to 3.41 grams, or 52.6 
grains, in Egypt, Palestine, and the provinces 

CIV. David Diringer, "The Early Hebrew Weights Found 
at Lachish," Palestine Exploration Quarterly for 1942, 
pp. 82-103. W. F. Albright, "The Excavation of Tell 
Beit Mirsim," Annual of the American Schools of Ori- 
ental Research, XXI-XXII (1941-43), 76-77. Chester C. 
McCown in Tell en-Nasbeh (Berkeley, Calif,: The Pales- 
tine Institute of Pacific School of Religion and the 
American Schools of Oriental Research, 1947), I, 259. 

ruled by the Ptolemies. The usual denomina- 
tions were: 

tetradrachma = 4 drachmas 

didrachma = 2 drachmas 


hemidrachma = i/ 2 drachma 

The gold stater, weighing approximately 8.60 
grams, or 132.7 grains, equivalent in theory to 
20 drachmas, was rated according to variable 
banking conditions. 

Bronze currency in various denominations was 
issued to meet the needs of local trade. Its rela- 
tive value with regard to silver was subject to 
frequent fluctuations. 

When Palestine passed under the Syrian rule 
(198 B.C.), the coins of the Seleucids replaced 
Ptolemaic currency. However the mints of 
Askelon and Gaza continued to strike their own 
silver and bronze. 

D. Maccabean Period. In 142 B.C. the Pales- 
tinian Jews gained recognition as an autono- 
mous community in the frame of the Seleucid 
state and were granted the right of coinage, 
apparently limited to bronze currency. Coins 
were struck in the name of the Hasmonaean 
high priests (the Maccabees) and of the com- 
munity of the Jews, with legends in archaic 
Hebrew letters. Alexander Jannaeus and his 
widow Alexandra issued a currency with bilin- 
gual legends (Hebrew and Greek) , in which 
they assumed the titles of king and queen. 

E. Roman Period. 1. Coinage of the Roman 
Administration (65 B.C.-A.D. 66). The intro- 
duction of Roman money followed the conquest 
of Palestine by Pompey (63 B.C.). The basic 
bronze currency was the object of frequent ad- 
justments, and the silver coinage, introduced in 
the third century B.C., had continually deterio- 
rated. The denarius, originally worth 4.53 
grams, or 70 grains of silver, weighed 3.88 grams, 
or 60 grains, at the end of the third century B.C., 
to be reduced further to 3.43 grams, or 53 grains, 
under Nero. Gold was rare at all times, the 
official rate of exchange being 25 silver denarii 
for 1 aureus, or gold denarius. 

The following charts show the relative value 
of usual silver and bronze coins in the time of 

denarius =16 asses 
quinarius = 8 asses 
sestertius = 4 asses 

sestertius = 4 asses 
dupondius= 2 asses 

semis = y 2 as 
quadrans = 14 as 










6,000 drachmas 
100 drachmas 
didrachma (paid to 
the temple) 

piece of money 
tribute money 

piece of money 

half shekel 

silver coin 

$960 00 













denarius, coin 

$ 0.20 



Whereas Rome reserved to itself the privilege 
of silver coinage, Palestinian mints were allowed 
to strike bronze coins of the usual denomina- 
tions. This currency may be divided into three 
categories: (a) coins of the cities holding a 
charter of franchise; (b) coins of Herod and 
the Herodians, viz., the tetrarchs, Agrippa I and 
Agrippa II; (c) coins of the governors of Judea 
(the procurators) . 

2. Coinage of the First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 
66-70). Silver shekels of the average weight of 
14.27 grams, or 220.2 grains, were struck together 
with half shekels and quarter shekels of the same 
type and standard. Owing to the increasing scar- 
city of silver, bronze tokens of half and quarter 
shekels were issued the fourth year of the revolt. 
These coins have been attributed erroneously to 
Simon Maccabee. 

Coins commemorating the victory of Rome 
over the Jewish nationalists were struck in the 
name of Vespasian, with the legend ludaea 
capta, "Judea conquered." 

3. Coinage of the Second Jewish Revolt (A.D. 
132-35). -The coins of the second revolt fall 
into three categories: (a) tetradrachmas, often 
restruck on imperial' silver; (b) restruck silver 
denarii; (c) bronze coins, most of them restruck 
on imperial brass. This currency was issued in 
the name of the Jewish leader, Simon Bar 
Cocheba, who assumed the title of nas, or 

"prince" of Israel. One denarius and several 
bronze coins bear the name and title of "Eleazar 
the Priest," of uncertain identity. 

Local currency issued after the victory of 
Hadrian over the Jews (A.D. 136) bears the new 
name of Jerusalem, which had become officially 
Colonia Aelia Capitolma. 

F. Appendixes. L Money in the New Testa- 
ment. References are made to Hellenistic and 
Roman currency, the denominations proper to 
Roman money being translated into Greek. 
Tables XX and XXI show the English transla- 
tions and the approximate value of the currency 
mentioned in the New Testament. 

According to the equivalence formulated in 
Mark 12:42, two lepta, "mites" (KJV), or 
"copper coins" (RSV) , make up a quadrans. It 
is doubtful, however, whether or not the lepton 
belongs to the Roman series of bronze coins. 

The values in American currency in the above 
tables are those given in the footnotes of the 
Revised Standard Version. They are not alto- 
gether consistent, and may be regarded at best 
as rough approximations. They seem to be based 
on the weight of the coins, but the variability 
and deterioration of ancient standards do not 
make a rigorous evaluation possible. Further- 
more, the purchasing power of Hellenistic and 
Roman currencies cannot be determined to any 
reasonable degree of accuracy. 

2. Illustrations of Selected Coins Current in Ancient Palestine 
a) Persian 

1. Persian dark, gold 
Obv. Kneeling figure of king holding spear and 

Rev. Incuse square. 



2. Local mint, bronze 

Obv. Bearded head wearing crested helmet. 
Rev. Male figure seated on winged wheel. 
(Judea) . 

b) Hellenistic 

3. Alexander: tetradrachma, silver 
Obv. Head of Hercules. 
Rev. Zeus Aetophoros. BoccnAecoq AAeov6pou. 

4. Ptolemy I: tetradrachma, silver 
Obv. Diademed head of Ptolemy. 
Rev. Eagle on thunderbolt. PlToXejiaiou Bocai- 

5. Antiochus III: tetradrachma, silver 
Obv. Diademed head of Antiochus. 
Rev. Apollo seated on omphalos. 

c) Maccabean 
6. John Hyrcanus I: bronze 
Obv. Wreath. Dn(i)n*n nam **un iron pmm 
(Jobanan the high priest and the community 
of the Jews) . 
Rev. Pomegranate and cornucopias. 

7. Alexander Jannaeus: bronze 
Obv. Anchor. BoccriXecofq AXeov6p]ou. 
Rev. Lily, iton fnaiiV (Jonathan the King) . 

8. Alexando: Jannaeus: bronze 
Obv. Palm, ifon inaift^ (Jonathan the King) . 
Rev. Lily. 



9. Alexander Jannaeus: bronze 
Obv. Wreath, (ai)nmn inm VTJBI iron tru (Jona- 
than the high priest and the community of the 
Jews) . 
Rev. Pomegranate and cornucopias. 

10. Alexander Jannaeus: bronze 
Obv. Anchor. Boca[iXeco](; AAeav8pou. 
Rev. Wheel, "fton tnJim (Jonathan the King) . 

11. Antigonus Mattathias: bronze 
Obv. Cornucopias, wn (fr)* insn rrnna 

[?]mirpn (Mattathias the high priest and the 

community of the Jews) . 
Rev. Ivy wreath. Boccr[iX]eco<; Avriyovou. 

12. Antigonus Mattathias: bronze 
Obv. Unidentified object. 

Rev. Seven-branched candlestick. [BoccnXJecoq 

d) Roman 

13. Herod the Great: bronze 
Obv. Tripod. BaaiXecoq Hpco5ou. 
Rev. Tiara surmounted by star and palms. 

14. Herod the Great: bronze 
Obv. Caduceus. BcxaiXEcoq HpcoSou. 
Rev. Pomegranate with leaves. 

15. Herod the Great: bronze 
Obv. Wreath. BoccnXecoq HpcoSou. 
Rev. Tripod and pahns. 



16. Herod the Great: bronze 
Obv. Cornucopia. BacriX. Hpco8. 
Rev. Eagle. 

17. Herod Agrippa I: bronze 
Obv. Umbrella. BacrtXecoq Aypnroc. 
Rev. Three ears of barley. 

18. Herod Agrippa I: bronze 
Obv. Head of Agrippa. BoccnAeus neyccq Aypnr- 


Rev. City goddess holding cornucopia, leaning 
on boat rudder. Kouaocpioc r\ irpo^ [lepaorjco 
(Caesarea on the Sea) . 

19. Herod Agrippa II: bronze 
Obv. Head of Vespasian. AuroKp. Queer. Kccicrcxpi 

XpaoTQ (sic) . 
Rev. Tyche' holding cornucopia and ears of 

barley. ET A I (Year 14, era of Tiberias=A.D. 

74) . Boc. Aypnmra. 


20. Ascalon: hemidrachma, silver 
Obv. Bust of city goddess. 
Rev. War galley. Aa. iepoc<; (Ascalon Holy) LB2 
(Year 202, Seleucid era=lll-110 B.C.) . 

21. Ascalon: tetradrachma, silver 

Obv. Cleopatra VII. 

Rev. Eagle on thunderbolt, dove. A<TKccX[wvoq 

i]pa<; acruXou (Ascalon Holy, Sacred) LNE 

(Year 55, era of 84 B.c.=29 B.C.) . 

22. Ascalon: bronze 
Obv. Bust of city goddess. 
Rev. War galley. I OP (Year 176, era of 104 B.C. 
=A.D. 72) Acr (Ascalon) . 



23. Tiberius: denarius, silver 
Obv. Head of Tiberius. TI.CAESAR DIVI 

Rev. Livia (?), holding scepter. PONTIF. 


24. Pontius Pilate, Procurator: bronze 
Obv. Ladle. Tipeptou Kcacrocpcx; LI1 (Year 16 of 

Tiberius=A.D. 29-30) . 
Rev. Three ears of barley. louAioc Kociaocpoq. 

25. Pontius Pilate, Procurator: bronze 
Obv. Augur wand. Tifkpiou Kcciaapoq. 
Rev. Wreath. LIZ (Year 17 of Tiberius =A.D. 

26. Antonius Felix, Procurator: bronze 
Obv. Palm. LE (Year 5 of Nero=A.D. 58-59) 

Rev. Wreath. 


27. Shekel, silver 
(Shekel of Israel) K (Year 1= 


A.D. 66-67) . 
Rev. Three pomegranates, ntnp 

lem Holy) . 



67-68) . 
Rev. ntmpn 

28. Half shekel, silver 
i*n (i/ 2 shekel) IB> (Year 2=A.D. 

(Jerusalem the Holy) . 

29. Token, half shekel, bronze 
Obv. Citron between two bundles of twigs. r\w 

ym* (Year 4=A.D. 69-70) >*n (one half) . 
Rev. Palm tree, two baskets. pi nhtiti (For 

the redemption of Zion) . 



30. Bronze 

Obv. Amphora, mnt* rw (Year 2=A.D. 67-68). 
mn (Liberty of Zion) . 

Rev. Vine branch, 

31. Bronze 
Obv. Bundle of twigs between two citrons. 

nw (Year 4 =A.D. 69-70) . 
Rev. Cup. IPS fi'?^ (For the redemption of 

Zion) . 

32. Imperial: sestertius, bronze 
Obv. Head of Vespasian. IMP.CAES.VESPA- 

Rev. Judea guarded by soldier under palm tree. 

IVDAEA CAPTA S.C. Struck at Rome, A.D. 


33. Imperial: bronze 

Obv. Head of Titus. AUTOKP. TiToq Kaicrap. 
Rev. Palm tree, Nike. Iou8aioc<;ccXcdKuiaq (Judea 
conquered) . Struck in Palestine. 


34. Tetradrachma, silver 
Obv. Star above temple (or Torah shrine ?) 

]iy&tt> (Simon). 
Rev. Citron and bundle of twigs. 

(For the liberty of Jerusalem) . 

35. Denarius, silver 
Obv. Wreath. ytt> (Simon) . 
Rev. Jug and palm. KB" irrt ltt> (sic) (Year 2 
of the liberty of Israel=:ca. A.D. 133) . 

36. Silver 

Obv. Wreath. iijttSff (Simon) . 
Rev. Three-stringed lyre. 
liberty of Jerusalem) . 

filing (For the 



57. Silver 

Obv. Bunch of grapes, 
Rev. Two trumpets. 
erty of Jerusalem) . 

(Simon) . 

(For the lib- 

38. Bronze 

Obv. Bunch of grapes, *ns" rfy*sb n[n]K 
(First year of the redemption of Israelrroz. 
A.D. 132) . 
Rev. Palm tree, iron ITJ^K (Eleazar the Priest) . 

39. Bronze 

Obv . Vine leaf. ^nttM n^K[:6] nn 
of the redemption of Israel) . 

Rev. Palm tree. 
Prince of Israel) . 

t^ (First year 
(sic) (Simon 

40. Bronze 
Obv. Head of Hadrian. IMP. CAES. TRAL 

Rev. Jupiter and two female deities in a distyle 

temple. COL(onia) AEL(ia) CAP(itolina), 




I. Barriers to Bible Study 
II. Nature and Purpose of the Book 
III. The Meaning of Inspiration 

Perhaps this article is carrying coals to New- 
castle, for presumably the man who buys and 
reads The Interpreter's Bible already knows 
how to study the Bible. But the presumption 
may not be justified. Preachers and teachers of 
the Book may come to the Scriptures by the 
wrong door: not always do they read it that it 
may read them. In any event, people who use 
The Interpreter's Bible are the very people who 
must guide others in the study of the Bible. So 
these lines, if rightly written, may have at least 
an indirect value. 

I. Barriers to Bible Study 

Sometimes the church has seemed intent to 
discourage the study of the Bible. It binds the 
Book in funereal black. It prints the text in 
type almost too small to read. It clutters the 
sacred page with side references and footnotes. 
It cuts its natural paragraphs, as if with ruthless 
shears, into verses a violence from which 
apostle and evangelist would have recoiled. It 
makes its poetry look like prose. The years have 
gone far to defeat the Reformation hope that 
the Bible might become an open book for the 
"man behind the plow," 

Even more serious failures must be laid on 
the church's conscience. The Bible is a library, 
and the library is itself an anthology. The li- 
brary comprises religious interpretations of 
history, hymns, idyls, sermons, letters; and it 
covers a period of several centuries. Then why 
are its books arranged so as to hide true chro- 
nology? If the Old Testament were so printed 
that Amos and Hosea came first, with the Penta- 
teuch in its place of comparatively late author- 
ship, the reader could no longer assume that the 
books of the Law (whatever their elements of 
antiquity) came from the childhood of the 
race. If the New Testament set most of the 
epistles first, followed by Mark, and if Luke 
and Matthew were shown as the work of the 
church toward the end of the first century, the 
reader would not be misled into believing that 

IV. Rewards of Bible Study 
V. Bible Study and Prayer 
VI. Yet More Light 
VII. Selected Bibliography 

the Synoptic Gospels are simple biographies 
of Jesus. Rather he would be prepared to study 
them for what they are, namely, primers for 
catechumens in the Christian faith. 

Preachers have urged people to "read the 
Bible/' People have tried, and have often been 
baffled. For though some passages are so clear 
that "he that runs may read," there are others 
(as in the Epistle to the Romans) so hard that 
to tell a beginner, "Read the Bible" is as 
unfair as if an elementary-school teacher were 
to say to his class, "Study Euclid." The Bible is 
not an easy book to read. Its gold is given some- 
times in nuggets, as in the twenty-third psalm 
or the Sermon on the Mount; but more often it 
comes in ore to be dug, smelted, and refined. 
Books which give a brief introduction to each 
biblical book and place it in its approximate 
chronological order perform a necessary service 
and meet a claim long overdue, for they enable 
the reader to answer such questions as, "Who 
wrote this book, and why, and when, and 
where?" Surely the time has come to strike from 
the Bible the fetters which the church itself 
has wittingly or unwittingly forged. 

II. Nature and Purpose of the Book 

Then how should a man study the Bible? He 
must begin with the right presuppositions. To 
pretend that he can completely suspend judg- 
ment until the whole Bible has been read and 
pondered is just that a pretense. Judgments, 
based on deepest experience, have long ago 
been formed, and are now part of widespread 
conviction. In any event, there is no adventure 
without an initial faith. Every reader must 
make some assumption about the Bible, if only 
that it is a book. Even in that assumption he 
would be wrong, for the Bible is both a library 
of books and the Book, as ages of experience 
have testified. The man who said of the diction- 
ary that it "has great variety but little plot" is 
an instance of what happens when a book is read 
with wrong assumptions. A student who ex- 



pected to find a historical romance in a book of 
mathematics, or sober history in a volume of 
Shakespeare's plays, would be both puzzled and 
affronted in the reading. So with any man who 
expects to find in the Bible what it was never 
intended to give. 

The Bible is not merely "great literature." 
It has glowing passages that are supreme in 
the realm of letters, as many a pre-eminent 
literary artist has been quick to see. Neverthe- 
less Bible authors would have been dismayed 
by the suggestion that they had a literary pur- 
pose. The danger of all books that treat the 
Bible as "literature" is precisely that they may 
distract the reader from the Bible's deeper 
intent. Indeed it could be argued that the Bible 
is on guard against literature, and against all 
other "words of man's wisdom" that might offer 
to the reader a refuge from the tremendous on- 
sets of God. 

The Bible is not a book of science. If this fact 
had been acknowledged and remembered, many 
a conflict that has brought discredit on both 
science and religion could have been avoided. 
The 139th psalm is true whether the earth is 
flat or round. The parable of the prodigal son 
is the history of men and man, though the 
Bible may seem to be falsified by "evolution," 
and though "evolution" may yield place to a 
doctrine of "contingency" not essentially differ- 
ent from Genesis! Science, however necessary, is 
sensate, and cannot sound the depths. It is of 
the analytic mind, and therefore cannot serve 
the wholeness of man's nature. It can give some 
answer to "How?" but none to "Why?" Only 
faith can say why, and every man must live by 
some faith. So the story of the Tower of Babel, 
though it is not a scientific account of the origin 
of languages, is tragic truth concerning that 
pride in man which destroys the work of man's 
own hands, whether in Babel or Berlin; and 
which always brings such confusion of tongues 
that Russia cannot understand the United States 
or Hitler's Germany comprehend the motives of 
Norway. The Bible is not a book of science. It 
has mightier business on hand. It will be read 
when our meticulous science has been forgotten. 

The Bible is not a book of history, even 
though that fact may not be as readily acceptable 
as the two above cited. Such books as Samuel 
and Kings are frequently described as "historical 
books" and the Gospels are called "lives" 
of Jesus; but both titles, despite their 
measure of truth, are misnomers. For when the 
Bible authors write history they are not intent 
to provide an "objective story." It is doubtful if 
such objectivity would be desirable, even if it 
were possible; but in any event, the Bible does 
not covet it. Its "history" is written in such a way 
as to show how a certain nation and its individ- 

uals were apprehended by God. This fact holds 
not less, but almost more, of the Gospels; for 
manifestly these four priceless books are too 
scant and disjointed ever to pose as complete 
"biographies of Jesus." Rather are they central 
in the prime intent of all scripture revelation: 
with one voice they say, "Here God came and 
laid his hand on men!" 

The Bible, despite frequent avowals, is not 
in original instance a book of "man's quest for 
God." Initially, in prime purpose it is intent 
to show that no quest on man's part is possible 
except under God's prompting. Our search for 
him is quickened by his prior finding of us. The 
Bible is not a book of "comparative religion," 
for it tells of a revelation that is precisely be- 
yond compare: "The LORD our God is one LORD: 
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all 
thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all 
thy might"; and (in that love) "thy neighbor 
as thyself" (Deut. 6:4-5; Lev. 19:18). The one 
word of the Bible is: "Halts by me that foot- 
fall." * Its whole story is of the siege of Mansoul 
by "this tremendous Lover." 2 It is not an earth- 
bound book either of literature or science, his- 
tory or human quest: its sole and all-compre- 
hending purpose is to tell of the invasion of 
earth by heaven's succor and demand. The 
reader is not required in any dark coercion to 
believe this claim "sight unseen," but he should 
understand the claim. Moreover, it is fair to ask 
that he expose himself to it. So the study of the 
Bible requires him to say, whether neophyte or 
theologian, "Generations of people have said 
that God has found them through this Book. I 
will be neither servile nor embattled, but will 
give the Book its chance with me." A man must 
approach the study of the Bible with the right 

111. The Meaning of Inspiration 

This faith that the Bible is a book of God's 
self-revealing, and thereafter of man's search 
for God, does not demand the acceptance of any 
arbitrary doctrine of inspiration. But it does 
print the words "veritably inspired" over all 
Scripture. For the men who wrote the Bible 
contend that God found them: that is why they 
wrote. Likewise, hosts who have read the Bible 
testify that through it God has found them also: 
that is why they have continued to read. But 
none of this need be equated with the theory 
of verbal inerrancy. Of that latter doctrine, 
which has repelled thousands of youth who 
might otherwise have been won to eager study 
of the Scriptures, we had better say just what 
Jesus said of similar doctrines, "Ye [make] the 
i Francis Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven." 



word of God o none effect through your tradi- 
tion" (Mark 7: 12-13). 

Anyone who will trouble to read in this Com- 
mentary the three articles on "The History of 
the Interpretation of the Bible" will under- 
stand that the doctrine of literal inspiration is 
an interloper in the "Interpreter's House," and 
far too weak to dispossess the proper tenant. 
What aberrations are invited by this rigid theory 
belief in a flat earth, belief in a host of 
demons inhabiting the middle air! What crimes 
are condoned all the way from killing witches 
to approving the institution of slavery! An un- 
prejudiced reader would see, if left alone, that 
the doctrine of literal infallibility has been im- 
posed on the Book. The writers do not write as 
men who are the blind and helpless instruments 
of God. Luke in his prologue tells of choosing 
his method and plan, and nobody could pre- 
tend that the respective personal traits of Mat- 
thew or Paul have been canceled by inspiration. 
Yet surely nobody could sincerely expose him- 
self to these writings and deny inspiration by 
whatever name. We must say of every Bible 
author what Browning said of Bunyan and The 
Pilgrim's Progress, and say it with profounder 
conviction: " 'Tis my belief, God spoke: no 
tinker has such powers." 8 

Is the theory of literalism a fear? Perhaps it 
is a worthy fear. The creaturely mind seeks 
refuge in a simplicity. Marxism is a prime in- 
stance: man is the spawn of the economic sys- 
tem, so all that is needed is a changed system, 
and, presto, heaven on earth! So in religion 
also men have coveted an impossible simplicity. 
What could be simpler than the doctrine that 
here is the literal and explicit Word of God? 
Actually we show not reverence, but a mild 
blasphemy, when we assume that God turns a 
man into a typewriter; and certainly the theory 
is a disparagement also of human nature. But 
it seems simple and safe. It lifts from the mind a 
burden of painful study under the guidance of 
the Holy Spirit. Yet the theory has elements of 
worth, for how could it have come if men had 
not found God in scripture? And is not God 
the sovereign Lord? When a man sees God in 
the temple "high and lifted up," he may be for- 
given for insisting that every stone now has 
inviolable sacredness though the stones still 

The emphasis in the phrase "literal inspira- 
tion" is not on the adjective, but on the noun; 
and there all Christian conviction finds common 
ground. The Old Testament tells of God choos- 
ing a nation to make covenant with them, not 
that they might bask in his favor, but that they 
might make his name and nature known among 
men. The history and songs of that nation are 


witness to the covenant, for through them God 
has found our race. The prophets tell of the 
national failure to keep the covenant, and of 
the holy grace that renewed it. The New Testa- 
ment tells how the covenant, even God himself, 
came to earth in a Man the mercy of the 
covenant being sealed in his death ("This . . . 
is the new covenant in my blood") , the power of 
the covenant being proved in his resurrection. 
The Book is a record of the self-revelation of 
God. Thus the record becomes one with the 
revelation, in even closer bond than the an- 
nouncement of good news becomes one with 
the glad tidings it proclaims. In that fact, at 
long last, is the inspiration of the Scriptures. 
The surge of God's ocean moves through its 
pages: "That Voice is round me like a bursting 
sea." 4 We need not try to define inspiration in 
terms more exact, whether "literal" or "ple- 
nary"; for if God could be defined by man, 
God would no longer be God. God is his own 
evidence. God is his own interpreter. So the 
Bible is the Rook, the central sun from which 
all other books receive their light. 

Now we can understand the reason why 
lowly folk find revelation in the Bible (or are 
found by revelation) , despite all fetters of 
printing and verse-snippets and scrambled 
chronology which the church has fastened on 
it, and despite all ignorance in the reader. For 
God speaks through the Book: it is the voice of 
his self-revealing grace. It is his inbreathing 
(inspiration) , more intimately than a man's 
voice is the breath and presence of the man. 
Yet the Bible is never to be confused with man's 
voice. So when a reader comes to the Book in 
humility saying, "For thee only do I wait," God 
finds him despite every barrier. The old-time 
boxes of Bible texts were not all folly. Many of 
us can remember them, a text on each tiny roll 
of paper, and how the godly in time of crisis 
would "draw a text," and thus consult the oracles 
of God. Of course the texts were chosen before- 
hand, from such shining chapters as Ps. 91; Isa. 
40; John 14; and Rom. 8. Imagine the consterna- 
tion and tumult had the texts been culled from 
the "begats," or from the Levitical laws, or from 
"Beware of dogs"! But even allowing for the 
carefulness of prior choice, the striking fitness 
of the counsel or comfort in the "drawn text" 
cannot be explained merely as "coincidence." 
That word is a description, not an explanation. 
The explanation goes back to the fact of in- 
spiration. God had already found men in those 
passages from his Book. Therefore they were 
chosen for the box; therefore they "found" men 
again in the day of crisis. 

So the way to study the Bible is to come to it 
with the right presuppositions. This does not 

* Thompson* op dt 



mean "begging the question," but it does mean 
awareness of the fact that the Book is not pri- 
marily literature or science or history, or the 
record of man's search: men tell in the Book 
how God took them unawares. Men have 
claimed to find in it, with shining and martyred 
grace to support the claim, the very oracle of 
God. The reader, however skeptical, must at 
least make acknowledgment of that radiant 

IF. Rewards of Bible Study 
But though neither the barriers that have 
been built around the Book nor ignorance in 
the reader can stay the holy and redeeming 
onsets of God in scripture, the barriers and 
ignorance cannot be made a virtue. The stars 
can speak of God to people unversed in astron- 
omy; but other factors being equal, the astron- 
omer with his Mount Wilson observatory is 
likelier to bow before God's wonders in the sky. 
It must be granted that other factors are not 
always equal, and that the astronomer can miss 
the celestial woods in his absorbed study of the 
celestial trees. Is it not a word of T. E. Lawrence 
that though the Arabs know little of astronom- 
ical science, they can still find God between the 
stars? Knowledge is always under threat from 
pride of the mind, not least Bible knowledge. 
Thus even the study of the Scriptures can be the 
occasion, though not the cause, of a man's dam- 
nation. But knowledge and reverence are not 
antithetic terms: knowledge can lead to deeper 
reverence. Festus was mistaken when he said to 
Paul, "Much learning doth make thee mad" 
(Acts 26:24) . There is no premium on igno- 
rance. Granted that a Bible student continues 
to say, "For thee only do I wait," more knowl- 
edge will bring more godliness. 

The Bible shines with brighter light if the 
reader knows the correct text of the Bible and 
its original meaning. For such knowledge we are 
dependent upon the lower or textual critic and 
the lexicographer. Their study is not criticism in 
the sense of carping. It is not scrutiny for the 
purpose of detecting error, but rather a study 
of manuscripts and a grateful exploring of the 
treasure of meaning in Bible word and phrase. 
The student should be quick to welcome the 
light that has thus broken from God's Book. 
Instances are legion. Ps. 139 is probably com- 
posite; and the main poem, when set free, gains 
in clarity and searching power, while the associ- 
ated scripture reveals its own treasure. Isa. 53 
has extra poignancy and power when it is under- 
stood in its context and its alternate phrases 
are read as a colloquy between Yahweh and 
the kings of the earth. The verb used in the 
phrase "They have their reward" in Matt. 6:5, 
concerning ostentation in prayer, was used in 

writing receipts, so that the phrase is equivalent 
to our "They have a receipt for it"; but the 
reward in Matt. 6:6, promised to sincere and 
lowly prayer, is represented by a different and 
more generous word (<5oro8cbaei) : "Thy Father 
shall render back [or grant] unto thee." When 
the student further finds that "openly" is a 
gloss (surely prompted by man's false pride?) , 
the whole passage stabs the soul awake. The new 
commandment of Jesus is new in very truth 
when his word love (dyd-rrn) is properly con- 
strued, namely, not as any earth-bound sexual 
love (epcoq) or friendship love (<j>iAtoc) which 
can decay or break under strain, but as God's 
own love come to earth in Jesus Christ. The 
word "keep" (the Greek <f>pouprj<ji) becomes 
almost apocalypse when we understand its im- 
plications: something precious that must be 
kept in some sure and secret place, with a 
sentinel set to guard it; "The peace of God , . . 
shall keep [sentinel] your [precious] hearts and 
minds in [the sure and secret place which is] 
Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7) . As for the importance 
of understanding the unity of a passage, let the 
reader reread I Cor. 13 from its proper begin- 
ning in I Cor. 12:27, and see if the meaning of 
that great hymn to Christian love does not glow 
with purer fire. 

Similarly, the voice of God speaks more 
clearly in the Bible when the reader under- 
stands higher criticism. Again the term may be a 
misfortune, for we misconstrue "criticism" to 
mean censoriousness, whereas actually it means 
appreciation. Higher criticism enables the Bible 
reader to appreciate the background of a given 
Bible book. Do we not rightly ask of any other 
book: "Who wrote it? For whom Chinese or 
Britishers? Is it old or new? What purpose 
prompted the book?" These questions are valid 
also for the inspired Book; for when God 
speaks through a man, God does not destroy 
the man, but employs the man's individual traits 
in divine humility, and awaits the man's consent. 
"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" 
(Isa. 6:8.) Job is dramatic poetry, surely might- 
ier even than the Antigone t and should so be 
read. Ruth is an idyl, with just as much truth 
as if it had been history: did not Jesus tell 
stories, and so convict the world of truth? Daniel 
in its later chapters is apocalypse, a philosophy 
of past history cast into the form of visions, as 
springboard for the prediction and sure hope 
of the coming Deliverer; and honest study of 
the book should long ago have rescued it from 
calamitymongers who try to find in it cabalistic 
symbols of current events. Isaiah is not one 
book, as a cursory reading of the Bible would 
assume, for there is a gap of centuries between 
the end of ch. 39 and the beginning of ch. 40; 
and when chs. 1-39 and chs. 40-66 are treated 



as two separate units, and each is understood 
under its rightful authorship and era, new 
worlds open to the student of the Bible. The 
Gospel of Matthew must be dated perhaps as 
late as A.D. 95, and may have been written in 
the Syrian church. It reflects the turmoil of its 
time the uncertain tenure of the new faith in 
the Roman Empire, for instance, and the strife 
between synagogue and church; and when the 
Gospel is thus read, it gathers fresh meanings 
and a fervent power. Each Bible book, such as an 
epistle of Paul, was first written for its own time, 
even though it holds truth for all time; and 
the study of the Bible requires a knowledge of 
the background of each book. This knowledge 
is an "opening" for God's Word. 

Study of the meaning of word and study of 
the background of the book: these two realms, 
even though thoroughly mastered, are still only 
provinces of the total kingdom of Bible study. 
There are wider reaches of knowledge. Further 
study is indispensable as the knowledge of our 
world is indispensable to a student seeking to 
understand the United States. Let us take certain 
phrases to see how they carry questions into 
this wider realm. "In the year that king Uzziah 
died I saw also the Lord" (Isa. 6:1). Who was 
King Uzziah, and why should his death have 
been a mark deep-scored in Isaiah's memory? 
That Bible passage, along with how much else 
in the Old Testament, cannot be understood 
without a study of the history of Israel. "And 
they went forth with them from Ur of the Chal- 
dees, to go into the land of Canaan" (Gen. 
11:31) . There we realize that the whole history 
of Israel, though held within the special cove- 
nant of God, was yet an emergent from the far 
vaster history of the ancient world. Abraham's 
trek, his going out, "not knowing whither he 
went" (Heb. 11:8), in obedience to an im- 
perious Voice, becomes for us an affair of more 
poignant courage when we trace his journeyings 
within and around the Fertile Crescent "The 
abomination that maketh desolate" (Dan. 11:31; 
12:11) : that phrase leads directly to the desecra- 
tion of the Jewish temple by Antiochus, and 
gives reminder that the history of Israel 
throughout its course was interlocked with that 
of surrounding lands. So with the New Testa- 
ment. Who were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, 
the Zealots? Who was King Agrippa before 
whom Paul appeared, and how was Agrippa's 
land linked with Judea? Why were the mer- 
chants of Ephesus so intent to defend the wor- 
ship of Diana of the Ephesians against the in- 
roads of the new Christian faith? What kind of 
praise and polity in the early church is implied 
in such a sentence as "They continued stead- 
fastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, 

and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 
2:42) ? This Commentary offers concentric circles 
of knowledge to the student understanding of 
the meaning of word and phrase, understanding 
of the book in which word and phrase occur, 
and understanding of the national and world 
history from which the book sprang to speak 
aloud the Word of God. 

The Bible is far from easy reading. It can be 
understood, but "not without dust and heat." 
Why should any man shrink from the task? So 
rich is the treasure, "a pearl of great price," 
even the kingdom of God, that a man to gain 
it should count the pain all joy and the world 
well lost. A neighbor spends years to master the 
mechanics of the radio, and we do not laugh 
at him. Another devotes half a lifetime to 
Shakespeare or Beethoven, and we count him 
no fool. Then why is not all life well spent on 
the study of the Bible? This is the Book through 
which God moves in ocean might now in the 
calm of a sunset sea, now in judgment storm, 
now in the tidal mercy that floats all our beached 
vessels. This is the only Book of Jesus Christ, 
whose life is the "master light of all our seeing," 
whose tragic cross is the taking away of the sins 
of the world, whose resurrection is the hope of 
men aghast at death's blight. Why is not all life 
well spent in the study of such a Book? If choice 
had to be made between this Book and all 
others, there would be no choice: who would 
not choose the sun against ten million candles? 

V. Bible Study and Prayer 

But this should be said, even at risk of seem- 
ing to disavow the foregoing plan for lifelong 
study of the Book: knowledge is not the prime 
essential in Bible study. Neither is ignorance: 
the church has been shamed, and men beyond 
the church alienated from the Book, by "proof 
texts" quoted to support a hundred aberrations 
white supremacy, the prevalence of poverty, 
dire prophecies a thousand times falsified and a 
thousand times renewed. No man should offer 
suffrages to a darkened mind. Yet the reader 
should confront the fact that a professor erudite 
in the Scriptures may miss salvation, while the 
lowly saint on his knees before the Book may 
know the Presence and almost feel the Hand. 

The dilemma of scholarship has become acute 
in our time, namely this: that knowledge must 
be pursued, but is always open to mistake and 
is never complete. Wisdom can tarry while facts 
multiply. Already in almost any field, including 
the field of Bible study, the glut of facts is such 
that no man can digest them. As for the mean- 
ing of Bible words and phrases, that study leads 
out into a study of languages not only of 
Hebrew and Greek, but of cognate tongues. As 



for the study of the background of the Bible, 
that soon involves the student in archaeology, 
and that in its turn leads to anthropology and a 
dozen allied inquiries of like scope. This knowl- 
edge must be pursued; but it is constantly out- 
moded and never complete. Thus the study of 
the Gospels has moved somewhat as follows: 
simple records (as was supposed) became the 
Synoptic problem and the Johannine problem; 
and these led to a painful probing into questions 
of date, authorship, and sources; and that, in 
turn, to a realization that the church, instead 
of being simply and solely produced by the 
Gospels, also produced them under the very 
Spirit of Christ; and that recognition has led in 
our time to form criticism and an attempt to 
disentangle from all additions and redactions 
"the core of tradition." Only a naive optimist 
could pretend that the process will end in some 
impregnable rock of knowledge. Yet only an 
equally naive pessimist could pretend that the 
quest has been in vain, or that any man has 
honorable discharge from the study of the Bible. 
The inevitable incompleteness of Bible knowl- 
edge does not permit us to sell out to some ob- 
scurantism. It means rather that we should 
pursue the quest 

beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until [we] die, 5 

accepting the burden of our finitude. 

A man's reach should exceed his grasp, 
Or what's a heaven for? e 

But this impossibility of ever mastering all 
the facts, not to mention the distortion that 
besets all knowledge, still poses a dilemma for 
scholarship, including Bible scholarship. Must 
a man forever be cheated of Bible light? No, 
for there is another way of knowing, and this is 
the prime essential in Bible study: "I know 
whom I have believed" (II Tim. 1:12) . Middle- 
ton Murry, in a glowing sentence, has quoted of 
Christ, "Look upon him, till he look back 
upon us again." T It is reminiscent of an account 
given by a medieval saint of his prayers: "I 
look at Jesus, and he looks back at me." Every 
man looks on Christ. That is why every man 
knows of any painted picture of Christ that it 
falls far short of truth. "Look upon him": only 
in that rapt prayer can the Bible be studied. 
Thus lowly saints unversed in knowledge about 
the Scriptures are still found of God as they 
read, while "Bible scholars" may grope through 
a deserted shrine. 

"Tennyson, "Ulysses." 
Browning, "Andrea Del Sarto." 
i Jesus, Man of Genius (New York: Harper & Bros., 
1926), p. 372. 

VI. Yet More Light 

The study of the Bible is therefore, at long 
last, a meditation on the word and the para- 
graph, an exposing of the soul to the Book's 
healing light. The reader prays, "Open thou 
mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things 
out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18) . He looks on Jesus 
meanwhile and asks, "What does this word mean 
for me?" He asks again and again, not shrinking 
from any cauterizing needle, not rejecting any 
proffered grace, not disobeying any commission. 
For if a man is unwilling to follow God's sign, 
why should God give it? Then the reader asks 
the wider question, "What does this mean for 
my land and era?" and thus sees his world, with 
all its raucousness, forgotten reverence, and 
yearning, under the judgment and mercy of 
God. Not without cause, and not without effect, 
have men found in every age that prayer and 
Bible study are necessarily joined. Necessarily 
both by man's need and God's ordination. Age 
on age the church has wisely made demand of its 
catechumens that they be "faithful in prayer 
and in the study of the Scriptures." 

So to this conclusion we have been led: the 
study of the Scriptures is under the light and 
leading of the Holy Spirit. That doctrine has of 
late been neglected in the church: therefore our 
gardens have become sand. Veritably at Pente- 
cost the Spirit of Christ was given to his follow- 
ers; veritably the gift is renewed to all who seek 
him. There are many words that Jesus had too 
scant time to speak during the days of his flesh; 
many words he could not speak because men 
were deaf; many words he had to keep until the 
occasion (our occasion) summoned them. All 
these words are hidden in God's Holy Word, 
but only his Spirit can call them into life: 
"When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will 
guide you into all truth; for ... he shall take 
of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 
16:13, 15). Therefore we "look upon him"; 
therefore we pray, "Come, Holy Spirit"; for 
only through God's gift granted in worship and 
prayer can any man truly study the Bible or be 
found of its eternal verity. 

Is there not a picture of Luther busy at his 
New Testament at the very moment when its 
light broke on him like morning after a weary 
night? Word by word he is tracing the Word 
not without the discipline of a student, for he 
brought to the endeavor a close knowledge of 
Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; yet not without 
fervent prayer for the Spirit's guidance. The 
chain by which the Bible had once been bound 
to a lectern lies broken. Luther comes now to 
the moment of revelation. The sun's rays slant 
through the lattice, token of a deeper light that 
soon will pierce him. Then the word: "There- 
fore being justified by faith, we have peace 



with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 
5:1). Luther brought agony of soul to that 
quest, and he brought scholarship. But he 
brought more the essential things; for he was 
in a cloister, and for every man the cloister is 
the place of prayer: 

Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire 
And lighten with celestial fire. 8 

Thus the page glows. Thus God finds the long- 
ing soul through the Book which he alone could 
give. Thus is the joy once more fulfilled: "Thy 
word is a lamp unto my feet" (Ps. 119:105) . 
8 "Veni Creator Spiritus." 

VII. Selected Bibliography 

CLARKE, WILLIAM NEWTON. Sixty Years with the 
Bible. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909. 

COLWELL, ERNEST C. The Study of the Bible. 
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937. 

DODD, C. H. The Authority of the Bible. New York: 
Harper & Bros., 1929. 

. The Bible Today. New York: The Macmil- 

Ian Co., 1947. 

GOODSPEED, E. J. The Story of the Bible. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1936. 

PEAKE, A. S. The Bible: Its Origin, Its Significance, 
and Its Abiding Worth. 5th ed. New York: Hod- 
der & Stoughton, 1914. 

RICHARDSON, ALAN. Preface to Bible Study. Phila- 
delphia: Westminster Press, 1944. 



on the 




25 so 100 200 300 400 

KILOMETERS ' i ' i i ' i i i 

50 100 200 300 400 500 600 

JEROME S. KATES, Cortopmpfter 

HERBERT C. MAY, PH.D.* fcaeoreft Edtfor 


if S H E B A 

i \ 



I. Ancient Near-Eastern Culture 
II. The Pre-Israelite Culture of Palestine 

III. Earliest Fragments of Hebrew Literature 

IV. Epics of the Conquest 
V. Canaanite Influence 

VI. Cultural Significance of the Monarchy 

When the Hebrew tribes broke into Palestine 
in the long series of incursions and infiltrations 
that reached flood tide sometime during the 
fourteenth or thirteenth century B.C., they pro- 
jected themselves into a course of culture that 
was already very old. Of their own level of civili- 
zation little is known. At times they have been 
regarded as unspoiled nomads directly out of the 
Arabian Desert, and consequently possessed of a 
culture not far above the barbaric; again, they 
have been associated with the widely diffused 
Habiru peoples who then lived or had lived in 
varying status in several of the civilized lands of 
the ancient Near East. Probably the safest guess 
is a theory that provides room for a combination 
of these views. Nonetheless, the conquest of 
Palestine was epochal for their culture, as it was 
to prove also, in the long perspective of the 
centuries, for civilization as a whole. The little 
land to which they made claim lay right athwart 
the great highroads of the ancient world. Up 
and down its valleys and along its strip of 
coastal plain went the commerce as well as the 
pomp and circumstance of the empires of the 
time, rich argosies of products from the looms 
and shops of Egypt and Babylonia that bore also 
undeclared imports of spiritual treasures from 
the civilizations of "the gorgeous East." 

L Ancient Near-Eastern Culture 

The great story of the achievements of the 
older Orient is not our present theme. We must 
restrain comment on the incredibly superb 
metalworking of Sumer, and the temples of 
Egypt and of Babylonia, different as they were 
in their architectural genius, yet alike in their 
housing of a ritual and liturgy that grew ornate 
and magnificent with the lengthening cen- 
turies. The palaces, the pyramids, the splendor 

VII. The Literary Prophets 
VIII. Deuteronomy and the Historians 
IX. The Exile and Its Sequel 
X. Style of Old Testament Literature 
XL Selected Bibliography 

of well-planned royal cities, the wealth and 
ease and the refinement that leisure can en- 
courage and much more may be recalled 
only as colorful and pregnant background pos- 
sessed of immense relevance for the quasi-bar- 
barian invaders of Palestine's narrow strip of 
fertility between the desert and the sea. It is 
more acute -loss, however, that we may only 
allude to the slow dawning of a science that in 
some departments presently became empirical, 
and to the speculative thought of these lands 
that age after age wrestled with the persistent 
problem, in course of time to become Israel's 
obsession also What is man? What is his place 
in a world of wonder and unfathomed mystery? 
It was a very old and ripe culture into which 
the Hebrews came. More significantly still, it 
was a literate civilization. All literatures have 
their beginnings in oral traditions of one sort or 
another; and this unwritten heritage was of 
peculiar significance to the Orient. Note must 
soon be taken of its function in Israel. But by 
the time of the Hebrew conquest, the great 
lands of the Near East had long since passed 
beyond that stage of development. Business, 
government, law, ritual, and the outreach of 
thought had all invoked the art of the scribe 
for so many centuries that it had become normal 
and undeserving of remark. As the modern 
world has its classics, so then likewise, famous 
old poems and myths circulated afar, and won 
a renown which justly has revived in our own 
day. In the history of human culture they were 
documents of a very high relevance. 

II. The Pre-Israelite Culture of Palestine 

The immediate context of the emerging He- 
brew nationality was also notable. The Canaan- 
ites have received less than their due. Religious 



practices which rightly shocked Israel's austere 
morality have through the medium of Old 
Testament condemnation provoked contempt 
and disregard for the pre-Israelite culture of 
Palestine, but accumulating facts compel more 
generous appraisal. The Canaanites were a peo- 
ple of unusual ability. Through more than a 
thousand years they had built up in Palestine a 
great civilization. The wealth and refinement 
of their cities astonished Egyptian conquerors. 
Their inventive genius originated three novel 
systems of writing; two of these were alphabetic, 
and of these one was destined to supplant the 
venerable systems of Egypt and Babylonia, and 
to become in its lineal descendants the medium 
of written record and communication for the 
entire Western culture even to this day. These 
alphabetic characters were ready, waiting when 
the Israelites arrived, tempting alert spirits to 
invoke them for expression and for annals. But 
stimulus and example were also at hand. It has 
long been recognized that a considerable por- 
tion of the Old Testament legal system, notably 
the social legislation in Exod. 21-23, was origi- 
nally Canaanite but received Israel's character- 
istic stamp. The Canaanites shared also, it 
would appear, in the intellectual activity of the 
Orient known as "wisdom." Yet most astonish- 
ing is the group of documents uncovered at Ras 
Shamra on the northern coast of Syria in 1929 
and subsequent years (see article, "The Old 
Testament World," pp. 259-61). They turned 
out on decipherment to consist largely of an- 
cient religious poems, epics, and myths inti- 
mately related to the cultus nothing less in fact 
than a portion of the long-lost literature of the 
ancient Canaanites! That the documents date 
from the period when the Hebrews were in the 
early stages of their thrust into Palestine is but 
incidental; the significant fact is that they give 
us an all too tantalizing glimpse of the intellec- 
tual and religious culture and practice that were 
to be Israel's pervasive atmosphere for centuries. 
Their actual influence is attested in the notable 
series of parallels, allusions, and even near- 
quotations steadily being recognized in the Old 
Testament down to its later portions. 

The Hebrews, then, had august guides, and 
the stimulus of a great and ancient culture so 
all-comprehending as to constitute their native 
air, when presently they set out themselves to 
create a literature that was to prove itself one of 
the greatest achievements of the human spirit. 
Yet it would be an error to limit our perspective 
to non-Hebraic facts and forces. Basic to all was 
the inherent genius of the Hebrews themselves, 
although it is highly dubious that as yet any of 
them or of their contemporaries could have 
suspected the possibilities that lay in germ in 
these uncouth shepherds and desert wanderers 

xvhose immediate purpose was to dispossess the 
Canaanites, the legal owners of the land. The 
reality of national traits cannot be denied, even 
though their origin lies hidden in the mystery 
of human biology; and Israel's incomparable 
contribution to human culture will not be com- 
prehended if it is not freely recognized that they 
were a people of remarkable endowments. 

HI. Earliest Fragments of Hebrew Literature 

It is more directly to the point, however, to 
speak of fragments of the Hebrew literary herit- 
age so old as apparently to antedate the settle- 
ment in Palestine. Poetic scraps such as the Song 
of the Well, the taunt against Heshbon, and the 
vivid bit of description of the boundaries of 
Moab, preserved in Num. 21, are placed by the 
narrator in the time of the Wandering, a date 
there is no good reason for disputing. How long 
before the Conquest the Song of Lamech (Gen. 
4:23-24) and the curse of Canaan (Gen. 9:24- 
27) may have originated no one can say. But it 
is freely admitted that some nucleus of the Song 
of Moses (or Miriam?) in Exod. 15 was actually 
composed for the triumphant celebration it 
memorializes. Balaam's oracles (Num. 23-24) 
are other extended poetic traditions which can 
with reasonable confidence be assigned in 
greater or lesser bulk to the period with which 
the record associates them. 

The earliest Hebrews also accumulated a body 
of traditions about the great figures and events 
of their history. To these we are indebted in 
some undetermined measure for our stories 
about the patriarchs. The superb character of 
these narratives is, consciously or otherwise, rec- 
ognized by all; but the critical study of them is 
yet far from finality, indeed much farther than 
was once supposed. Even among prominent 
scholars opinions differ widely, all the way from 
a relative conservatism 1 to a belief that the 
stories have grown up in a way typical of most 
early traditions: a small nucleus of historic 
events which cannot now be precisely deter- 
mined overlaid with legendary embellish- 
ments 2 However this may be, the account of 
Abraham's successful pursuit of the four ma- 
rauding kings who had carried off his nephew 
Lot (Gen. 14) has archaic features that indicate 
dependence on an actual historic source. The 
whole body of these narratives has indeed re- 
ceived in recent years small, quite indefinite, 
but significantly corroborative, support from 
various aspects of our growing knowledge of the 
ancient East. We can no longer doubt their 
factual basis, but he would be a bold spirit 

1 See H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (London: 
Oxford University Press, 1950). 

8 See Aage Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament 
(Copenhagen: G. E. C. Gad, 1948). 



who would undertake to delineate that basis. 
Much the same is to be said of the stories of 
Jacob; they fit at numerous points what we 
know from other sources. Yet we wrong this 
whole body of literature when we appraise it 
primarily as history, for it was composed for a 
variety of purposes, most of them quite apart 
from systematic record of the past. Nonetheless 
it is apparent that the origins of these stories 
carry us far back in Israel's career, so that the 
traditions provided a significant portion of the 
nation's cultural heritage when at length the 
Hebrew tribes emerged into actual history. It 
is highly improbable that any of these various 
elements had been committed to writing before 
the Conquest; they existed rather as an oral lit- 
erature, more accurately, as folk traditions. 
The art of writing was already very ancient and 
was widely diffused; it had long been practiced 
in Palestine. But such meager knowledge as we 
possess relevant to the point does not encourage 
the assumption that literacy was general at this 
time in Israel. 

IF. Epics of the Conquest 

The heroic age of the Conquest and settlement 
added greatly to the people's store of subjects 
worthy of celebration in song and story. It was 
an age of precisely the conditions that have uni- 
versally created ballads and hero tales, a pro- 
tracted time of turmoil where battle lines were 
not drawn, but the enemy might be confronted 
at any chance turning: a time of notable vic- 
tories against great odds, of common rustics who 
in emergency proved of such gpic stuff that an 
otherwise unknown Shamgar ben Anath could 
slay of the well-armed Philistines six hundred 
men with an ox goad and so work deliverance 
for Israel; a time, too, of notable champions 
who, like Samson, grew legendary with the pass- 
ing years. From some such source the account 
of Joshua's triumph was later composed. The 
old sources are still clearly visible in the book 
of Judges, although overlaid with the historical 
interpretation of later ages. 

The most notable poetic monument of this 
time is the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5) . It has 
suffered from subsequent editing; but its archa- 
isms, its vivid realism and passion, and its ob- 
vious verisimilitude, carry conviction of the 
contemporaneity of its original. It is a stirring 
composition in which even yet one feels the 
anxious concern of the ill-armed tribesmen 
gathering for battle against Sisera's chariotry, 
and the excitement and thrill of the victory: 

The kings came; they fought. 

Then fought the kings of Canaan, 
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo. 

They took no spoil of silver. 

From heaven fought the stars, 

from their courses they fought against Sisera. 
The river Kishon swept them away, 

the river of the valiant, the river Kishon. 

Fragments of folk poetry have survived in the 
tales of Samson: his riddle and his answer to the 
Philistine youths, and his boast of victory at 
Lehi (Judg. 14:14, 19; 15:18) . They are the sort 
of popular jingle that comes naturally out of a 
rustic community; they could have arisen at 
any time, but it is best to relate them to this 
stage of Israel's development. Through this 
period, too, the heroic episodes of the nation's 
past were being recorded in poems that may 
very well have been chanted in popular gather- 
ings, much like the medieval minstrelsy. It is not 
known how extensive these were, or whether 
they approximated the character of a national 
epic. Mere scraps of the total have been pre- 
served as citations in some of the narrative books, 
where they are ascribed to the book of Jashar 
and the book of the Wars of the Lord. They 
were still receiving accretions as late as the time 
of Solomon, it would appear, but beyond that 
nothing is known. 

Not less significant is Jotham's fable (Judg. 
9:8-15) about the trees seeking a king but find- 
ing only the "worthless bramble willing to waste 
time in politics 1 It is a characteristic piece of the 
plant and animal fables of the ancient East, of 
which we have little else from Israel, and along 
with a few other traces reveals that in this rela- 
tively early time Canaanite "wisdom" activity, 
however slight or extensive it may have been, 
was contributing to the literary development of 
the Hebrew people. 

V. Canaanite Influence 

Since the days of the biblical writers them- 
selves it has been recognized that Canaanite 
religion made a powerful appeal to the He- 
brews, so that the rival claims of pagan deities 
over against the worship of Israel's own God 
constituted a disturbing and to some extent a 
creative stress in religious thought for many 
centuries indeed, until the triumph of nor- 
mative Judaism subsequent to Ezra's reform. 
The Canaanite religion was old and rich in 
ritual and liturgy. In spite of features which 
Israel's better thought repudiated, it had much 
to teach the newcomers. And so it is that certain 
of the psalms, for example, which we use to 
this day, are really Canaanite religious poems 
taken over and adapted by Israel. It has been 
claimed likewise that the amazing group of 
love lyrics which make up the Song of Songs 
trace back through some undetermined process 
of adaptation to songs of the Canaanite cultus. 
Obviously no one can mark the point in the 



long centuries of Israel's exposure to Canaanite 
culture when any given poem was so appropri- 
ated by the Hebrews, but it is important to 
realize that here lay one of the potent stimuli 
to the nascent Hebrew literary genius, which in 
some way must have been felt as early as the 
days of the judges. 

Yet it was not in hymns and songs alone that 
this pervasive influence was effective. There 
were numerous sacred places up and down the 
length of the land; several of these are men- 
tioned in the Old Testament, and certain others 
have come to light through archaeological in- 
vestigation. Each was a center of ritualistic pro- 
cedure. Details of their interrelationship escape 
us. Certainly there was some general pattern of 
practice; but also it is more than probable that 
the atomistic politics of Canaan entailed a cor- 
responding independence on the part of the 
priests in the several petty states. Then pres- 
ently the Yahweh cult likewise came to recognize 
several places of worship. The old shrine at 
Shiloh was a center for the tribesmen so early 
that its origin is unknown: and apparently 
Shechem was still earlier in religious signifi- 
cance. In course of time another was established 
at Dan in the far north, and still others at Gil- 
gal, Gibeon, Bethel, and Beer-sheba. The peas- 
ant Micah had a private sanctuary for Yahweh 
in his own home (Judg. 17-18) , and there is no 
reason to suppose that his was unique. Indeed, 
after the destruction of Shiloh, we hear of just 
such local and personal places of worship. David 
provided quasi-national establishment for the 
cultus in Jerusalem. Yet numbers of Canaanite 
sacred places were still in some way revered by 
devout Israelites. Doubtless the situation was 
comparable with what still exists in Palestine, 
where very old, originally pagan, sacred places 
have been taken over as Moslem or Christian 
sites. Just so the Hebrews worshiped at numer- 
ous ancient holy places. In this diversity and 
wealth of ritual practice we are to see the origins 
of much of what now stands in the late Priestly 
Code. The characteristic conservatism and tradi- 
tionalism of the priesthood evidently preserved 
in memory perhaps also in small measure in 
written documents generation after generation 
the ancient modes of worshiping its God, until 
at length the tragedy of national collapse 
aroused exiled priests to organize this diverse 
material in final form. 

Something similar may be said of the legal 
corpus. Whatever rules and regulations the He- 
brews possessed at the time of their entrance 
into Palestine, it is clear these would not fit the 
new circumstances. But the Canaanites had been 
for a millennium evolving codes for Palestinian 
life. What more inevitable than that this ancient 
legislation should continue, more particularly 

since the view must be revised that Israel prac- 
tically exterminated the former inhabitants of 
the land? In the social upheaval of the trou- 
blous times of the settlement, when the two 
peoples were finding a somewhat tumultuous 
modus vivendi, it is more than probable that 
much of the Canaanite body of laws would be 
sloughed off and finally lost. Nonetheless, in the 
case law now found in Exod. 21-23 we are by 
common consent to recognize fragments of the 
Canaanite code, doubtless revised and adapted 
to Hebrew needs, but still patently Canaanite. 
Obviously we have no knowledge of the time 
and circumstance of the origin of this legisla- 
tion; also the date of its full acceptance by Israel 
is so uncertain that scholars differ markedly. It 
suffices that here lay one more source of our 
Old Testament literature. 

VL Cultural Significance of the Monarchy 

The establishment of the monarchy was 
epochal for Israel's culture to a degree not com- 
monly realized; indeed, it may be said to mark 
the beginning of that culture, if defined in a 
narrower sense. Saul deserves more respect than 
he generally receives; it was he who first gave the 
Hebrew tribesmen a few years' experience of 
the security, even against the powerful Philis- 
tine menace, that was possible through political 
unity. Yet to the end he remained a rustic, rul- 
ing his domain in simple state, more like a 
landed squire than a king. It was the destiny of 
David to raise his people from abject conquest 
by the Philistines to near-imperial status as the 
first power on the eastern seaboard of the Med- 
iterranean. More to our present interest, he 
established his capital in the ancient fortress 
city of Jerusalem, came into relations not al- 
ways wholesome with the long-civilized people 
of the city, and doubtless unconsciously laid the 
foundations for all the subsequent refinement 
of Israel's life. 

The urbanization went on apace through 
Solomon's reign. That this was a period of 
grandeur and wealth is freely recognized; the 
Hebrew historian himself was dazzled by it (I 
Kings 4:20-34) . But there was much that does 
not immediately meet the eye. The visit of the 
queen of Sheba was a showy affair that roused 
the narrator to grandiloquence. He says little, 
however, about a quiet and perhaps embittered 
man, banished to his country estate on pain of 
death if ever he set foot in the capital. Yet this 
man, if the identification is proper in any case, 
some man of the time while Solomon disported 
himself in gaudy show was busy writing. Away 
from the pomp of the court, at work in some 
Palestinian home devoid of our simplest con- 
veniences, doubtless equipped with a common 
reed pen and a roll of papyrus, he was writing 



the first real history ever composed by man. He 
may have entertained notions of the superiority 
of his methods over the annals and royal chron- 
icles of former times; certainly he could not 
have dreamed of the consequences of his work. 
For he, and not Herodotus five hundred years 
later, was the real "Father of History/' His 
theme was that of the kingship in Israel, per- 
haps the reign of Saul, but certainly that of 
David, which we have now in II Sam. 9-20. He 
told of events that he knew well from his own 
participation; and he related them with such 
superb skill as even yet might well set an ex- 
ample for historians. His selection of facts was 
much too narrow; there are hosts of questions 
that concern the modern historian of which he 
said nothing. But within the scope of his plan 
he wrote his narrative in lucid simplicity, with 
a compelling realism of the interplay of human 
personalities. Here was something new in Is- 
rael's literary career: so far as we know, the first 
continuous prose. It was Israel's first book. 

Yet this is but part of the real brilliance of 
Solomon's time. For it was the age of Israel's 
first thrilled experience of the delights of the 
mind. Solomon's far-famed "wisdom" is to be 
understood as in some way a part of a notable 
intellectual awakening, doubtless fostered and 
participated in by the king himself. His 3,000 
proverbs and 1,005 songs (I Kings 4:32), how- 
ever far a carping skepticism may discount them, 
were yet, on the background of the erstwhile 
rural culture of his people, indicative of a pro- 
found revolution. There was a new ferment 
stirring in the Hebrew consciousness such as to 
make this, in spite of the monarch's maladroit 
politics, a golden age of promise. 

That promise did not long delay. The true 
mission of Israel had come to such self-conscious- 
ness that the political debacle of the following 
centuries could not dim or abate its vigor. The 
first great historian's work set a vogue. It must 
have been very soon after this that the hero 
tales of the "judges" were committed to writing 
and arranged in some sort of pristine ancestor of 
the present book of Judges. But still the historic 
instinct was not satisfied. The old tales and tra- 
ditions of the nation's early days, its patriarchs, 
the oppression in Egypt from which the Lord 
had brought them out by a strong hand and an 
outstretched arm all these called to an aroused 
sense of the meaning of the past. The still older 
stories of a remote past before Israel had its 
beginning likewise beckoned to historic re- 
search, tales of the great flood, of the antedilu- 
vian celebrities, of the beginnings of civilization, 
of the fabled tower in Shinar from which the 
human race was dispersed over the face of the 
earth. The information was gleaned in various 
ways from the great ancient cultures of Israel's 

world and passed current in a land through 
which flowed the tides of the best thought of 
the time. And all called to an aroused realiza- 
tion of the significance of the past, and quick- 
ened the insight that was to be one of Israel's 
great contributions, the sense of history. 

The immediate result was the work now in- 
terwoven in much of our Pentateuch and com- 
monly referred to as the J and E documents 
(see article, "The Growth of the Hexateuch," 
pp. 192-97) . They were conceived on the grand 
scale, nothing less in fact than world history. 
And in this once more we come in touch with 
the revolutionary character of Israel's historians; 
for one goes far in the stream of historiography 
before uncovering other writers whose intellects 
attempted such scope. It may perhaps be ob- 
jected that J and E were only histories of Israel 
in a world setting. Yet the long introduction 
beginning with the creation of the world and 
the dispersion of the races of man, as well as 
the steady consciousness of wider contacts that 
confronts one constantly in these histories, justi- 
fies the more challenging description. And like 
the nameless historian of David's reign, they tell 
their story with the high literary art which now 
we may recognize as one of the excellences of 
Hebrew writing. 

Yet these qualities do not exhaust the aston- 
ishing character of these ancient Hebrew works 
produced in the midst of physical conditions 
that to sophisticated tastes seem little better 
than barbaric. They have lived to this remote 
day by their intrinsic worth alone, high among 
the treasures of man's heritage. For along with 
other merits they were theological philosophies 
of history, the first such undertaking that had 
ever dawned upon human thought. They set a 
model for subsequent Hebrew historians, so that 
it is scarcely an exaggeration to claim that the 
theme of the Old Testament throughout is a 
survey of human life sub specie aeternitatis. 
These Hebrew thinkers remained for many ages 
alone in their field, and when eventually specu- 
lation about meaning in history did seize the 
imagination of a wider circle of scholars, these 
paid unconscious tribute to the unknown phi- 
losophers of Israel who had begun the study. 
It is mildly amusing for the student of the Old 
Testament to observe current discussions tracing 
the course of this speculation only from Augus- 
tine onward, apparently oblivious of his de- 
pendence on the Bible, that is, ultimately on 
Israel's historians. There is a tendency to disr 
miss all this phase of thought as transcenden- 
tally based, whereas the scope of the Hebrew 
historians' narrative should have indicated the 
factual ground of their conclusions. Actually 
they surveyed an expanse which only through 
the archaeological and anthropological discoY- 



cries of the past hundred years the modern 
world has been able to rival and the signifi- 
cance of these newer facts has as yet very im- 
perfectly made its impact upon the thought of 
this century. While it is true that the psycho- 
logical sciences began with the Greeks, yet in a 
large way the Hebrews in their theological in- 
terpretation of history were first in the applica- 
tion of empirical methods to the processes of 

Israel had become pen conscious. Besides 
these two great documents, the years of the king- 
doms witnessed the production of a diversity of 
books, temple records, national annals, archi- 
tectural specifications, stories of the prophets 
such as those that have enriched us with copious 
tales of Elijah and Elisha, arid a variety of works 
of transient relevance. Out of such sources the 
material of the present books of Kings was 
slowly growing, although it is doubtful that they 
were assembled until much time had passed, 
and certainly they did not reach final form until 
the Exile. Someone has counted twenty-four 
books mentioned by name in the Old Testa- 
ment, all of which have disappeared except for 
such citation; most familiar are the books of 
the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah or of 
Israel, mentioned in the books of Kings as sup- 
plementary sources. What a prize if only archae- 
ology might turn up a copy of some one of 
these 1 But it is a vain hope; we must content 
ourselves with names that witness a vigorous 
literary activity in the days when monarchs sat 
enthroned in Jerusalem and in Samaria. 

Nor may we overlook the temple in Jerusalem 
and other shrines of greater or less repute 
through the land. Allusion has already been 
made to them as centers of Canaanite literary 
stimulus; but their influence by no means 
waned with their growing orthodoxy. The ritual 
performed day in and day out, century after 
century, was one of the potent though generally 
unobtrusive aspects of ancient life. Hymns and 
liturgies were tested for their effectiveness, and 
gradually grew into a sifted body of religious 
lyrics, many of them in course of time to be pre- 
served for us in that classic of the inner life, 
the book of Psalms. The "wise men" likewise 
had a continuing activity; we hear of them oc- 
casionally, and not always in flattering terms. 
The heading of Prov. 25 testifies that an organic 
group of them was engaged in the days of 
Hezekiah in something resembling the work of 
a present-day committee. The distilled wisdom 
of their sage observations on human life has 
also gone into the total of our heritage from 
ancient Israel. 

A side light, pitifully small but priceless in its 
uniqueness, is provided by the documents writ- 
ten in ink on potsherds which archaeology has 

already turned up in Judah and on the site of 
Samaria. A single ostracon from the hill of 
Ophel, at Jerusalem, half obliterated by the 
action of the centuries, appears to contain a list 
of commodities, perhaps for use in the cultus. 
The group from Samaria, dating from the 
eighth century B.C., likewise lists materials, con- 
stituting, it would seem, a sort of acknowledg- 
ment of payment of taxes in kind. But most 
remarkable are the ostraca from the site of 
ancient Lachish. They are a series of letters 
written by at least two officers of the garrison 
at the time of Nebuchadrezzar's advance to the 
attack on Jerusalem. They possess a genuine 
thrill for the student of the Old Testament, 
in part for the names they mention, some of 
which have been long familiar, but even more 
for turns of expression and idiomatic structure 
which seem to come right out of the Hebrew 
Bible, though in reality their significance is the 
reverse: the Bible was written in the living lan- 
guage of the time. But of all the ostraca alike, 
the importance for our present interest is their 
testimony to Israel's literate culture. The art of 
writing was a common acquisition. 

VII. The Literary Prophets 

With the line of prophets beginning about 
the middle of the eighth century, Israel's litera- 
ture reached its maturity. The prophets brought 
Hebrew writing to such excellence that the 
period of approximately two hundred years, 
from Amos and Isaiah to Second Isaiah, is well 
considered Israel's classic age. They imparted an 
impulse that through several minor figures down 
to Second Zechariah (Zech. 9-14) was felt for 
many ages, and in the considerably modified 
form called now "apocalypse" passed over into 
Christian usage. Indeed, both this and true 
prophecy have continued potent forces to the 

The study of the prophets is not easy, for 
practically all the books bearing their names 
are composite. Those of the great prophets, in 
particular, and several of the so-called minor 
prophets also in striking degree, are expanded 
with relatively large bulks of matter of diverse 
authorship, and generally of most indefinite 
origins. In the form in which they have come to 
us they are a deposit of Jewish piety through 
many centuries. Actually there are reasons to 
believe that the process of accretion was not 
complete until near Christian times. Within this 
diverse mass, then, precise identification of the 
words of the original prophet remains even yet 
a contentious issue. Nonetheless, on one basic 
matter there is full agreement. The prophets 
were poets. This does not preclude the possibil- 
ity that as well they uttered prose oracles; but 
how much, if any, of the prose material now 



found in their books is genuine continues un- 
certain. Their poems are short by comparison 
with some o the famous literature of later 
times, very short. There is an effort growing out 
of the study of literary types in the Old Testa- 
ment to show that the critical process of frag- 
mentation went too far, and instead certain 
shorter books, as Joel and Habakkuk, constitute 
complete, unified literary compositions of an 
established form. But granting whatever cogency 
one may to such contentions, it is uncertain how 
far this form is the work of later editors using 
composite materials, and how far it stems from 
the original prophet. In any case, it is incontest- 
able that some at least of the prophetic oracles 
are and always have been no more than two, 
three, or four lines. From this minimum they 
range in bulk upward, admittedly in many 
cases to whole chapters or somewhat more. 

It is the habit to distinguish this line of 
prophets from their predecessors as "the writing 
prophets." Yet we shall fail to understand them 
if we overlook the fact that they were, prior to 
the Exile at least, just as truly concerned with 
oral utterance as were Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, 
and the rest. How their spoken words came into 
written form is an interesting but largely futile 
speculation. Certain Scandinavian scholars em- 
phasize oral tradition, claiming that the oracles 
were so preserved for ages. It is a fruitful in- 
sight, but in grave danger of excess; for we know 
that Jeremiah had his words committed to writ- 
ing while as yet he was but in midcareer (Jer. 
36), and this book was certainly the lineal 
predecessor of the present book of Jeremiah. It 
has been pointed out also that Isa. 8:16 is sus- 
ceptible of the meaning that in a similar time 
of menace Isaiah took the same course. But cer- 
tainly, of the rest nothing more is known than 
can be deduced from the form and condition of 
the books themselves, which commonly evidence 
a long period of collecting and editing, but 
reveal nothing about the original writing. How- 
ever, the question is for our present concern 
largely irrelevant. The prophets were great lit- 
erary creators, whoever did the actual inditing 
of their words. 

It will be apparent that the common descrip- 
tion of the prophets as preachers is susceptible 
of grave perversion. Yet in one regard it pro- 
vides real insight; the consciousness of an im- 
mediate audience lay ever upon the prophet; in 
prophecy's earlier stages at least, it was his im- 
pelling drive. And his oracles, however polished 
and finished, were poured out in an intense 
effort to sweep along and bring moving convic- 
tion to living contemporaries who sat or stood, 
listening and watching with various reactions. 
The prophetic poems have thus a common type; 
they are characterized by an impetuosity and 

intensity of utterance, a sense of terrible ur- 
gency: the issues of life and death hung in the 
balance, a mortal threat was already on the way 
if only something might be done while yet 
there was time! The prophetic method then was 
not so much that of reasoned development of a 
theme to carry an audience by logical steps to a 
rational conclusion; it was rather to overwhelm 
and overawe, to impress by telling words, by 
skillfully turned expressions, by lines that would 
re-echo in memory till action was provoked. For 
the prophet's mission could brook no interrup- 
tion. The awful majesty and holiness of God, 
over against the injustices, the paganisms, the 
political stupidities of contemporary society 
these were the two poles between which his soul 
was racked in an agony of spiritual torment. 
As time passed, prophecy took on a more calm 
demeanor, yet its inner fervor was never abated, 
not even when it expressed itself in the apoca- 
lyptic visions of the book of Daniel. 

It is tempting to pause over the majesty and 
finished art of Isaiah, the wistful, haunting 
beauty of Jeremiah's poetry, the rare occasions 
when Ezekiel's muse takes flight above common 
levels, and, as in his description of the imminent 
fall of Jerusalem (Ezek. 7) , reveals that under 
stress even he can feel the touch of celestial fire. 
With the second Isaiah the prophetic poetry 
reached the highest level of exaltation, reasoned 
force and pure beauty (see article, "The Pro- 
phetic Literature/' pp. 201-11) . 

VIII. Deuteronomy and the Historians 

The book of Deuteronomy everyone is fa- 
miliar with the common view that the book 
found in the temple in 621 B.C. (II Kings 22) 
constitutes its major bulk demonstrates afresh 
the growing literary self-consciousness of the na- 
tion. For while basically a book of laws, a sort 
of Revised Statutes of ancient Judah, it is 
set in a homiletic framework where the writer 
argues the claims of God upon Israel and 
the importance of national faithfulness. Its 
temper is a strange blend of prophetic and legal; 
yet unlike the works of the prophets it was 
clearly composed for private study. The author's 
subject parallels the theme of the prophets, but 
he differs from them in that he expounds and 
reasons. Here, and not in their oracles, is found 
Israel's first homiletic literature, for Deuteron- 
omy is a great sermon, or series of sermons. 

Writing of this sort implies, and to be effec- 
tive entails, literary mastery beyond that of the 
narrator or oracular poet. It is the art of the 
essayist. Deuteronomy is Israel's first attempt 
at belles-lettres; and in the hands of this writer 
the attainment is high. The book has a notable 
style, which in fact set a vogue for a "school" 
of writers and editors. If one were obliged to 



characterize it in a single term, that word would 
be "flow"; it has a rounded fluency, a rhythmic 
dignity, that impart majesty and elevation. The 
author delights m words, in their cadences and 
overtones. He piles them up in synonyms, he 
entwines them in ornate patterns, he balances 
them in polished phrases, until at times, half 
entranced with their music, he almost loses his 
line of thought in their enchanting beauty. Yet 
ponderous as his style threatens to become, his 
greatness is apparent in the sustained interest 
and sheer beauty he attains. He may be charged 
with breaking the rules of good writing and 
then he writes better than the masters. Through 
his balance and rhythm, his sense of form and 
proportion, and in his love of the allusive, pic- 
torial quality of words, his prose becomes lyric. 

IX. The Exile and Its Sequel 

The Exile was the Great Divide in Hebrew 
history. It was at once the most terrible and 
the most transforming experience that befell 
ancient Israel. From this point onward all 
streams run in different and generally in deeper 
channels. The course of literature likewise was 
diverted, although not always for the better; 
what was gained in moral earnestness and reli- 
gious fervor was not uncommonly lost in literary 
art. One of the notable features of this later 
time was the great editorial activity mentioned 
briefly above, the marks of which are apparent 
on most books of the Old Testament. It signifies 
the attainment of a complete literary self-con- 
sciousness; the Jews had now become "the peo- 
ple of the book." It was a labor which along its 
exegetical and homiletic lines produced later 
the Mishnah, the Midrashim, and a great bulk 
of other writing, indeed down to our own 
day. Acceptance of an ancillary relationship im- 
plies admission of inferiority; and notwithstand- 
ing flashes of creative writing by completely un- 
known authors, as for example the magnificent 
poetry of Isa. 60-62, we find ourselves here in 
the lesser light of the epigoni. 

The best narrative of the postexilic period is 
in the books of Jonah and Ruth, granted that 
the latter is actually to be dated here; it in 
particular is a charming idyl of simple life in 
Judah in the days of long ago. The only work 
worthy of mention alongside these, until per- 
haps the time of I Maccabees, is the memoirs of 
Nehemiah, now incorporated in the book of 
his name. It is rich in unconscious character 
delineation, the account of the difficulties and 
endeavors of an intensely loyal, unselfish, and 
altogether high-minded Jew, who at the same 
time could be amusingly smug. The books of 
Chronicles are the most obvious historical nar- 
rative of the period, but of them as literary art 
the less said the better. The writer has forgotten 


how the times of the kingdoms produced authors 
even more intense than he in their moral con- 
victions, yet by very reason of that intensity 
great as literary men. 

A prime treasure of this time is the book of 
Psalms. Enough has been said of its remote 
origins; psalmody was very old in the Orient 
and expressed itself early in Israel. Of prior col- 
lections of such sacred lyrics we know nothing 
save as their presence in whole or in part is 
declared in the present Psalter; for the book of 
Psalms is an anthology of Israel's hymns and 
liturgies, which received its final editing into 
150 poems somewhere in this long, indefinite 
period of which we are speaking. Activity was 
not confined, however, to externals: psalm writ- 
ing continued, probably until the Maccabean 

The wisdom books likewise were edited in 
postexilic times. And of their greatness, particu- 
larly that of Job, there can be no two opinions, 
yet we can afford to dismiss them with this brief 
mention, since they are dealt with elsewhere 
(see article, "The Wisdom Literature," pp. 212- 

Much attention has been given in recent years 
to the forms of Hebrew literature. Beginning 
with a structural analysis of the Psalms, it has 
broadened out to the prophetic books and to 
the narratives. As a result we have discovered 
that there existed clearly recognized literary 
forms of a wide diversity: hymns, thanksgivings, 
lamentations, liturgies, wedding poetry, war 
poetry, peasant songs, imprecations, prophetic 
and priestly oracles, and a variety of tales. The 
form was of as precise a structure as that of 
the modern sonnet. The investigation con- 
tributes to an enhanced realization of the self- 
conscious art of Israel's writers. It promises to 
transform considerably the method of literary 

X. Style of Old Testament Literature 

A literature so diverse as that of the Old 
Testament may well baffle rational appraisal 
and in addition to its diversity of type and 
theme, it possessed also a wide range of merit. 
Nonetheless, the important matter is to realize 
its prevailing excellence. For those who possess 
historic perspective it stands out easily as the 
greatest literature of the ancient East. The 
writers of Egypt and of Mesopotamia, notwith- 
standing their indisputable importance in the 
history of culture, yet at their best only imper- 
fectly approached the level where Israel's literary 
men moved easily as masters. Nor is this all. 
The Old Testament has continued to this day a 
high treasure of our cultural heritage by reason 
of its historical significance, it is true, but pri- 
marily through its literary beauty and power. 


After all that has transpired in more than two 
thousand years, we must yet appoint a place 
with the mighty for these unknown men of the 
rugged hills of Judah and the narrow vales of 
Israel. They lived in conditions of stark sim- 
plicity; but herein they are themselves a symbol 
of their own deepest meaning: man's life con- 
sists not in things, but "out of the abundance 
of the heart the mouth speaks." 

The Hebrew storytellers manifest an uncanny 
sense of the appropriate. They fall occasionally, 
it is true, into tedious repetition, which indeed 
may have been effective for ancient audiences; 
but apart from this, they are masters of the art 
of commanding and holding interest. Their 
compactness and speed of movement are remark- 
able. The tragedy of Queen Jezebel, with its 
shallow taunts, its cold brutality, its callous 
indifference, and the ghastly sequel, is all told 
in the brief compass of six biblical verses (II 
Kings 9:30-35) . They know also the power of 
suspense and surprise. They can paint a picture 
with a few bold strokes so that it stands out 
clear as a vignette. And permeating all is the 
utter simplicity of their themes, and the realism 
and deep psychological insights of their flowing 
tale. An excellent illustration for study of 
Hebrew narrative is Gen. 24, a simple story 
of Abraham's servant going to Mesopotamia 
to find a wife for Isaac. What a picture is 
sketched when, having arrived at his destina- 
tion, the servant "made the camels kneel down 
outside the city by a well of water at the time of 
evening, the time when women go forth to draw 
water"! Even more effective, for those who can 
apply a touch of disciplined imagination, is the 
conclusion where, leaving